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THE HUNTING

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"You have always been deeply involved; more than you could ever imagine," he told me in his usual cold and curt manner and I couldn't help but feel my life was about to take a 360-degree turn. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Daphne only wanted a job with good pay after several failed attempts to get one. She ran into an opportunity to become a maid for an amount that could change her life and that of her siblings but what she didn't know and never expected was that accepting the job of a maid with an attractive salary would dig up family secrets that would endanger her life and the lives of her loved ones. Her desperation caused more that she could bargain for. She wasn't supposed to get involved in the world of guns, crime and the Mafia. In fact, she wasn't supposed to know anything like those existed. It was a trap and she fell right into it. She thought it was something she could run away from but then she realised that the survival of the Mafia depended solely on her life and the key she never knew she held. In all, she had been the prey all along. Let the hunting begin.......

The Signpost

Getting a decent job in the country was something near impossible. It was difficult to conclude if I was too poor or if everything was just too expensive to afford; either way, the country was just no place for people like me.

I looked at the manila envelope in my hands containing my credentials then looked up at the house I stood in front of. A frustrated sigh slipped through my lips as I shoved the envelope back into my black bag and marched away from the house.

Being an Occupational Therapist was a challenge. With the not-so-known profession, people never saw the importance and it could be quite a task to explain what it meant too. I had come to that particular house in the wealthy area of the city for an interview. I was told the owner of the house needed an Occupational Therapist for her autistic son but on getting there, she told me she didn't need one anymore. In fact, she with her son would be relocating to Canada the following week. I felt my world crash and my hope of getting the job and the good pay was flung back at my face.

So much for hoping

I clutched my bag close to my side as if it were my lifeline and let a heavy sigh escape my lips. I walked out of the estate letting my mind wander off to the bills I had to pay: the house rent, Dave and Esther's school fees; and I was not even earning enough at my present place of work.

Working with a patient suffering from cerebral palsy was more challenging especially when the parents weren't financially stable enough for me to charge them the appropriate amount. I saw the desire and the will in them— especially the mother— to make their daughter get better so I had to accept whatever amount they offered to pay. Besides, I was in dire need of money myself at that particular time and I was jobless. I didn't even give it much of a thought before accepting to manage their daughter at that amount. The amount was barely enough to feed my siblings and me for a month not to mention other stuff that needed to be taken care of.

I had walked down a few houses from where I went for the interview when I saw a signpost in front of a house or should I say mansion because it seemed to be a lot bigger than all the houses in that area. The one I hadn't noticed on my way to my supposed interview. Guess I was too excited to do so. I walked closer to the signpost and discovered it was about a housemaid being needed with a very attractive salary.

I thought of entering the house to apply but a thought came to my mind 'you didn't go to school for years to end up as a housemaid'. Images of my university days flashed before my eyes: the sleepless nights of reading back in school, the handouts, the cold; getting sick because of eating bad food and many more. If someone had told me five years ago that I'll ever apply for the position of a house help, I would have laughed my heart out at the person.

I started to walk past the house but then, the post said an attractive salary which might really be attractive. It might be the breakthrough we had always prayed for. Even if the salary was not much, it would help to foot some bills.

Whirling around, I marched briskly towards the gate till I was standing in front of it. Taking a large breath, I raised my hand and knock softly on the gate. I waited for almost a minute before it was gently opened by a pretty built man. He was dressed casually exposing biceps That looked bigger than my head or so I thought. He looked somewhat in his late thirties or early forties; I couldn't tell. I realised I'd been staring for too long and he'd been staring back in confusion.

"Hello," I greeted.

"Hello," he replied, his eyes scrutinizing me.

"I saw the signpost outside", I pointed to it, "and wondered if I could apply".

His face formed into some kind of confusion and he looked at me again letting his eyes rake all over my body and taking in my appearance. Well, I wouldn't blame him. I was indeed a little too dressy for an application for that position. I was in my usual professional outfit because of the interview I had earlier on and thought I was gonna get the job. I was putting on a pair of black trousers, a lemon green oversized shirt that was tucked in, a black leather handbag and a pair of black stiletto heels with my braided hair fixed into a bun and a slight makeup to fit. Guess all my effort and time to look good for the interview went to waste. I looked at the man who was still standing at the entrance staring at me and raised an eyebrow.

"Anything the matter sir?" I asked him. As if being brought back from his trance, he shook his head and blinked several times.

"Are you sure you're here to apply for the position of a housemaid?" he questioned.

Did he have to remind me? I mumbled to myself

"Yes I am"

"But you're a little too out of the league of a housemaid," he pointed out with confusion still all over his face.

"I'm sure I fit perfectly well," I gave him a reassuring smile which wasn't reassuring to me. He cocked his head and then looked at me again. He smiled revealing a perfect set of white pearls and opened the gate wide enough to let me in. I muttered a thank you and walked into the compound whilst he locked the gate and with a few strides, he was standing beside me.

My, how long are his legs?

"What's your name?"

"Daphne," I answered absentmindedly whilst admiring the mansion that was standing before me. Well, he wasn't the only fine piece in the compound— I figured. The mansion was breathtaking. Only the exterior had me drooling.

"You know Daphne, you could have just used the bell instead of risking your delicate knuckles knocking on that gate," he corrected.

Wait, there was a bell?! How did I not see it?!

You're too dumb, that's how

Oh shut it

"I'll let madam know you're around."

I replied with a gentle nod before he scurried away into the house. I stood where I was praying and hoping the madam will be nice enough to employ me. I really needed an additional income.

After some minutes, he came out of the house and walked to where I was standing.

"Come with me," he instructed.

"Sorry I didn't catch your name," I said as I followed him.

I just wanted to know his name for, you know, future purposes I think.

"It's Bernard," he said not looking at me

"You also seem a little out of the league of a gatekeeper too. Especially your name— sounds too posh." I voiced out which somehow only made him chuckle.

He opened the door to the house gesturing for me to enter first. So gentlemanly. I smiled at him and entered before he did the same and locked the door behind him.

"Wow," I whispered to myself looking around me. The house was the most beautiful I had ever seen. The parlour was bigger than my whole apartment. Then there was the dining room and a bar?!

A freaking bar in a house?!

How much money does this madam have?.

I brought my eyes back to Bernard who was stifling a laugh. He then raised a finger to his chin and gently tap it whilst still holding back a laugh. I looked at him in confusion wondering what was funny. It took me seconds to realise I was the thing he found amusing and that he was telling me to close my mouth which I had opened my mouth immediately the interior of the house came into my view. Feeling embarrassed, I closed my mouth and began finding the floor more appealing to stare at. If I had been fairer, I was sure I'd look like a tomato right there and I had never been so grateful for being on the dark side.

Don't get me wrong though but you get the idea

"Please have a seat," he pointed to a couch and gave me a soft smile but I was too scared to move. It was like sitting on the white couch could stain it or that stepping on the dark marbled floor could even stain it. I looked at Bernard and realized he was still waiting for me to move. I walked slowly, conscious of every step I took till I reach the couch he pointed to and carefully sat on it. It wasn't my fault that I had never been in this kind of house before. Even Luke who I thought was from a wealthy family then had nothing close to this.

I sat still scared I was going to do something I wasn't supposed to do. I was busy drowning in the beauty and glamour of the house, thinking of what it would feel like to live in a house like that or even own it when I heard a feminine yet firm and sweet voice.

"Hello Daphne"

I sprung up from the couch and turned in the direction of the voice and an I saw a strikingly beautiful olive-skinned woman. Her skin was so smooth and glowing. She was wearing a short black beautiful, gown with a pair of flat shoes to match. Her hair flew down to her shoulders. A beautiful handbag in her left hand which was adorned with a beautiful and I guess expensive wristwatch and her right hand holding her phone which looked more expensive than my whole family's savings. She had a smile plastered on her make-up-free face. She looked like she was on her way to a party. I guessed she should be in her late thirties or early forties. Even without heels, she was taller than my short self.

I watched as she walked confidently with shoulders high to sit on the couch opposite mine as Bernard left the living room to go back to his post. She placed her bag beside her and crossed her legs- a pair of really fine legs. Was I checking her out? Yes, I was. Did I feel bad about it? Not in the least and I couldn't stop myself. I mean, those silky, smooth, spotless legs that even showed me a reflection of myself almost had me drooling.

I'm straight but I can't be blamed for admiring and appreciating the Lord's work

Her aura was a very daunting one which could make anyone even the strongest men cower in fear not to mention a mere weakling like myself. Even though I tried to appear strong and fearless; I was slowly shrinking inside. Everything about her screamed money and power; and not just any kind of money and power but the kind that makes one do whatever they wanted whilst remaining untouchable.

"Sorry for the delay dear. I have an outing in some minutes and I was getting ready when Bernard informed me of your presence," she said and I couldn't even reply or move before she spoke again.

"Please sit."

I realised I was still standing whilst she was seated. Embarrassed for the second time within thirty minutes, I immediately sat down.

"Bernard told me you're here to apply for the housemaid position," she asked with a doubt

Still not looking at her face and fiddling with my fingers.

"Yes ma'am," I answered.

"Judging by your appearance, you were not out for this kind of a job," she stated.

I looked up to find her staring at me. The kind of stare Bernard had given me when he saw me but something was different about hers. Something I couldn't place a finger on.

"I just needed to find something to do. I have some financial issues I need to take care of." There was no point hiding the fact that I needed money. A lot in fact and I had a limited time to look for it.

"Hmmmm......" she studied me for a while; continuously tapping her index finger on the couch's arm; her eyes raking all over my body

"Well," she began. "I am not the one in need of a housemaid dear," she said. "As you can see, I already have one".

Just then, a young lady of about my age emerged from where I guessed was the kitchen with a tray. Then walked confidently, too confidently for a housemaid to the bar where she expertly grabbed a bottle of wine and two champagne flutes. She was decently dressed with her hair in a few plaits. I watched her as she placed the tray on the centre table, opened the bottle of wine and poured some into the flutes. Just watching her confidence gave me goosebumps. She gave one flute to madam and gave me one which I reluctantly collected from her before she disappeared back to where she came from.

I watched as madam brought the flute to her lips to take a sip. If she hadn't needed a housemaid, why was there an ad outside?. I wondered and as though she had read my mind.

"My son is. He doesn't stay here with me. He stays alone on the other side of the city," she said as she took another sip of her wine.

Then why couldn't the son put up a signpost himself?

Must be a lazy spoilt rich brat

I thought as I took the first sip of my wine. I didn't know the name of the bloody red wine but it tasted divine! I hurriedly took a few more sips before stopping. I had already embarrassed myself enough right?

"How good are you in taking care of a house? A house as big as this," she asked staring at me intently like she was trying to read me.

"I've always been good almost perfect at doing house chores ma'am and I'm sure I can handle a house as big as this or bigger than this," I said without much honesty.

"May I know your name ma'am?"

Really? You only had to ask for her name now. So thoughtful of you D.

I shook my head at my lack of manners.

"Call me Madam Rose"

Why does that name sound familiar?

"Did you come with any documents you could show me?" she asked. I brought the manila envelope out of my bag, stood up and stretched it out to her. She placed her flute down on the stool next to her couch collected the envelope and opened it.

She opened the envelope and brought out one of the documents and let her eyes scan it for a few seconds before she spoke.

"I see you studied Occupational Therapy?" she started looking through the rest of my file absentmindedly.

"Well, I must say, Daphne, that you're perfect for the job," she said, handing over the envelope. She picked up her flute and resumed sipping her wine.

Really? That fast? It was almost too easy

A moment of silence passed before I finally spoke again.

"When am I supposed to start and how much is the pay?" The pay was the most important thing on my mind not when to start.

"Drop-in at 8 tomorrow morning. I'll drive you to his place myself. I don't know what he might do to you if you went there yourself and......." she trailed off before speaking again. "And you're going to be paid seven thousand pounds".

I felt the oxygen go the wrong way and I began choking on air. I had to cough several times to clear my trachea of the foreign and sudden invasion.

"Seven thousand what?!" I finally screamed in disbelief. She raised an eyebrow infinitesimally obviously wondering why it appeared I had seen a ghost. No, she couldn't be serious. That was too much to pay just a housemaid. Way too much. I could never even earn that much if I got a good job as an Occupational Therapist. There must be something else to it.

"In a year?" I asked with my eyes and mouth still wide open. I just needed to clarify things.

"No".

Silence

"In a month," came the curt reply that broke the silence followed by the sipping of wine.

Dear Lord!

Capable Men Don't Exist

The whole encounter with Madam Rose replayed in my mind whilst walking home. Was I happy about the whole job thing? No, I wasn't— or maybe I wasn't just sure how I felt. Was it reasonable or even possible for a maid to be paid that amount in a month? The world's level of generosity wasn't that high yet and it would never be. Come to think of it, Madam Roses' maid didn't look a tad bit like one— skin glowing, hair expertly packed, nails smooth and glittering, shirt and trousers well ironed and I must say looked expensive; those didn't portray the typical features of an ordinary housemaid. Maybe they were paying her the same amount I was offered— maybe they were really generous after all.

"Boom!"

"Holy Mary mother of sweet Jesus!" I screamed and stumbled onto the door grabbing my chest as tight as I could. I almost jumped out of my skin. Calming my scared heart that was pounding angrily against my rib cage, I glared a

Heroes

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