A Royal Prisoner
The violent banging on the door jolted Ben from his sleep. He sat up quickly wondering if it was a dream. He could hear his mother’s voice, screaming in some words that he couldn’t make sense of. The noise was becoming louder; the footsteps were heavy and nearer to his room.
Alarmed and frightened, he stood up quickly from his bed, walked towards the door when suddenly it was forcefully kicked, and in a matter of seconds, flashes of light, fierce shouting and about two men grabbed his shoulders and pinned him to the ground, trying to restrain him.
“What is this?” He shouted, confused. “What’s going on?” He was rattled. “Who are you?”
“Are you Benjamin Cooker?” Someone shouted in his face.
“Yes, yes, yes, please, who are you?” It was hard to breathe.
The light in the room suddenly came on; only then did he realise who they were; several police officers in his room.
“Benjamin Cooker, you are under arrest for rape,” one of the officers addressed him, putting a handcuff on him.
“What!” He gasped; mystified.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”
“You have me confused with someone else,” Ben struggled with the officers holding him. “This is all a mistake.” He shouted louder to be heard.
They took him out of his room, there, he saw his mother struggling with the officer keeping her back.
“What are you doing to my son, please,” she cried out. “Where are you taking him to, he’s done nothing.”
His father stood there gobsmacked.
“You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”
Ben was stunned and appealed as he was put in the police car. His heart aches to see his mother running after the police care, and his father struggling to hold her.
“Please, you have me confused with someone else, I didn’t rape anyone,” he shouted fearfully at the officers. “This is wrong; I haven’t done anything.”
“Say that to your fellow perverts you would meet in jail.” One of the officers said angrily.
Ben was frightened and terrified at the whole thing. He couldn’t understand what was happening. His hands hurt behind his back and felt already like a prisoner.
‘This was probably a dream’, he tried to console himself. ‘This can’t be happening to me; I mean; this shouldn’t happen to me; I am the Benjamin Cooker.’ This thought was going on in his head.
Within few minutes, they were at the police station; he was walked into the building. All eyes were on him; threatening and damning eyes stared furiously at him. Fear gripped him; it was the early hours of the day when he should be sleeping safely in the comfort of his own room not being bombarded by police officers. A slate was hung around his neck and flashes of light as the camera went off, he was asked to turn in the different position to take his photo; his finger print was taken and a swap from his mouth for DNA sample.
Not long after, he was led into a tiny room, and the heavy gate shut behind him. He sat quietly on the flat single bed, dejected and terrified.
Then, it physically registered on him that this wasn’t a dream, it was really happening. Being confined in the tiny room brought tears running down his face.
‘Benjamin Cooker’, he said to himself. That was his name, the name he had so much protected and prided. He couldn’t believe how much trouble he had gotten himself into. It had been only a night of fun that turned into a night that may destroy the rest of his life.
A few days ago, he had come home for the summer holiday from school; it was his first year as an undergraduate student at the University of Coventry, studying to be an Architect. His Parents were so proud of him when he received a scholarship to study it was a great pride seeing their eighteen years old son off to the university and succeeding brought so much joy to them.
Right from his primary school, he’d won numerous awards for best student in various competitions and was well known in the community as one of their best students.
Shortly after his entrance into the university, he was introduced to join a fraternity; they called themselves, ‘The brotherhood’. He’d watched so many movies about fraternity group which most likely always go by the same name but didn’t know they truly existed until he was invited to one. He was just a freshman at the University and being invited to well esteem and rich boys club was somewhat great for him.
The guys there were from very rich families and everything a young man would want in life. From the movies, he had thought he would be dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and taken to a remote place for initiation and all but this was far from it. It was an evening gathering of boys in an expensive suit, glasses of wine having a nice time. They talked about football, the stock market and all forms of business he’s not even heard of.
He’s never seen so many wealthy young boys all in the same room; their suits, shoes, watches say it all about them, not to talk of their cars. He felt so much intimated by all these considering his low-class background. They told him that if he joined their club, his future was secured and would have numerous opportunities of wealth in life. They had god-fathers who would ensure their future is well taken care of. They stated their rule which wasn’t so difficult, ‘help and support every brother in need, protect and guard their interest’.
A Few days later, he officially joined the brotherhood after a ceremonial gathering was called. He was sworn in by swearing on the ‘black book’, where all their rules and regulations were written in.
His admission into the brotherhood brought many benefits to him, he was relocated to a well-furnished house not far away from the school, to share with some other members and given a Ford fiesta 2015 to start off with. Because of very intelligent, he was placed in the academic department of the fraternity where he would help other struggling members with their studies and receive payment for his services.
Life was great, I mean, every boy’s dream was coming to pass in his life; he had nothing to fear, nothing to worry about. He met with Josh, a final year student who took exceptional interest in him. He was practically born into money and a grandson to one of the founding members of the brotherhood. His friendship with Josh bought more respect from other students and even the lecturers, not that he needed it but he was somewhat feared and respected. A Few day to their summer break, he made plans to meet up with Josh in one of the clubs in London.
His parents were excited when he got back home; he never told them about his new friends at school. He knew they would frown at such and wouldn’t understand how harmless they were. His Parents were both elders in the church and had taught him about God right from his youth. He decided to keep his life at school secret to himself and be a good church boy when he’s home.
Two days after his return back home, he met with Josh at a local pub not too far from his house. He tried every wine and drank himself to the extreme. Shortly after, Josh decided to drive him home, but on their way in the midst of the fun and laughter, Josh asked him if he wanted to have more fun and do something he’d never done before.
A Few distance away from the pub, Josh parked his car by the side of the road and they both waited in the car. Josh asked him if he’d ever had sex with a stranger. They both laughed about it and drank more beer. Shortly after, they spotted a young girl on the other side of the road; Josh immediately came out of the car and went to her. Ben couldn’t make out what he said to her but the girl cussed at him and started to walk away when Josh grabbed her and carried her into the side of the road, weaving at Ben to come out. Ben followed quickly and followed Josh’s instructions; he helped to push the young girl on the floor and before long, Josh was on top of her while Ben held her two hands to the ground, keeping her from struggling.
The young girl cried, begged and screamed for them to stop but he laughed at her while Josh raped her.
He had no idea how he got home that night but when he woke up in the mid-day, he knew something was wrong, he knew he had done the abominable. He was so scared to think about what happened so he went back to bed, sleeping throughout the whole day, woke up to have his dinner and then went back to sleep until early hours when he was arrested. Everything was becoming clearer to him now, the hangover had worn out and he knew exactly what he had done.
The bang on the cell gate jolted him from his thought.
“Hey boy, your lawyer is here.” the officer shouted at him. The heavy gate was opened while they cuffed him and led him outside.
As they approached a room, he could see his mother from the glass window and there, he felt ashamed. He had become a disgrace to his family and went against everything they stood for.
Her eyes widened as he was brought in, she stood up quickly going to hold him.
“Oh God! Ben,” she held him close. “Don’t you worry; we’ll get you out of here.” she touched his face to assure him.
His father sat there, stone-faced, staring at him. Ben felt his heart pounding, ‘Did he know the truth?” He thought in his heart.
“Alright,” the other man seated in the room spoke out. Ben realised he was the lawyer.
“My name is Carl Henson; I am going to be your defence lawyer.”
Ben nodded, unsure of how to response.
“Why are we defending? He hasn’t done anything here, they have him confused with someone else.” His mother raged out
“Ma’am,” Carl said.
“No! You are going to get my son out of here right now, today,” she shouted at their lawyer. “this all comes back to racial discrimination. A white girl gets raped, probably by her boyfriend and then, they blame a black boy for the crime. What has my Son got to do with this? He just came back from school a few days ago, an honours student and a respectable boy in the community. I will not stand for this, I will not let anyone use my son as a scapegoat in the name of the law.” she shouted, her eyes widened, staring at the police officer behind the window.
“Sit down Margaret!” The sound of his father startled her.
“What!” she stared at him in disbelief?
“Sit down!” He said again.
“Are you going to sit here and allow them to do this to us, to our son? Are you intimidated by all of them?” She shouted at him, pointing at their lawyer who was also a white man.
“Ma’am!” Carl stood up, insulted by her words.
“Don’t you ‘ma’am’ me!” She screamed at him with tears running down her face. “This is my son we are talking about, my only child; are you going to sit here and let them do this to us? We are the victim here Jonathan, we are.” She cried out to her husband.
Ben couldn’t take this. He felt like ripping his heart off his chest. He dreaded the horror in the room, his mother was hysterical, crying for the innocent child she once knew and unaware of the evil he’s become.
“Ben, do you understand the charges against you?” Carl directed his question at him.
“Do you know any Melissa Gail?” He asked.
The name was familiar. “No.” He replied.
“Alright, a Miss Melissa Gail claimed you raped her two days ago,” Carl said.
The uncontrollable weeping from his mother made him mute; he avoided her eyes.
“Now, my job is to defend you in court but there is strong evidence against us here.”
“I did not rape anyone.” He found his voice, aware of his father’s intense gaze on him.
“You see,” His mother whimpered, “he said it, he didn’t rape anyone, he doesn’t even know who she is.” She cried out.
“The police searched your room shortly after your arrest and found one of your shirts which matched a piece of clothing Ms Melissa torn away from her attacker.” He stared into Ben’s eyes, waiting for an answer.
His mind flashed back to the event, he remembered the girl grabbed his shirt during the attack; Josh had laughed at her, asking her if she wanted to have the two of them at the same time. He was too drunk to realise she had torn his shirt.
“Do you know how a piece of your clothing got into her hands?” Carl looked straight into his eyes.
Stunned. He felt his heart pounding. “I was at a pub that night, maybe, it happened there. I really don’t know.”
“Hmm, that’s could be an explanation,” Carl said.
“I don’t understand all these,” his father spoke out. “How was he identified amongst every young boy in the pub? Was the Melissa girl at the same pub?” His father directed the question to Carl.
Ben was afraid to look at his parents, he had told them he was going to a friend’s birthday party that night, not a pub.
“No, she was coming from the library not too far from her house,” Carl said.
“Then, how did she identify my son.” He asked.
“That’s where it becomes difficult, she physically identified him; gave the full description and address which means they must have met somewhere or someone she already knows before.”
“What?” his mother said in exasperation. “How?”
“That’s where we have to work harder and bring any evidence that will acquit your son from all these charges; you are going to tell me everything that went on that night, what you did, what you ate or drank, the people you met.” he said to Ben which brought a lump to his throat.
These were simple questions but the most difficult he would have to answer to. He knew he couldn’t involve Josh in this, his life would be over and as rules of the brotherhood. He’d heard rumours of old members who went against the brotherhood and the punishment that was issued against them were so severe that it destroyed them and their whole families.
He understands Josh’s position in the society and knows the brotherhood would do everything in their power to make sure nothing destroys his reputation. It wasn’t just his life at stake here, his parents and everyone he loves would be hurt in the process if he does anything contrary to what the brotherhood stands for.
“So, did you go with anyone to the pub that night?” Carl asked, staring at Ben and his pen ready to write down his answer.
“No.” He replied quickly.
“What did you drink?”
“I had a bottle of beer.”
“But you told us you were going to a friend’s birthday party; how did you end up in a pub?” His mother asked in anger.
“I had a change of plans.” He said quietly with his head bowed.
“You see what change of plans has caused you?” She frowned at him.
“So what happened after you left the pub?” Carl asked.
“I walked back home, alone.” He said.
Thirty minutes later, he was back in his cell. Those few hours with his parent were the most tormenting in his whole life. He’s lied, cheated and sinned against his parents. All his dreams of becoming wealthy and successful were literally all dreams now and have no hope of coming to pass.
He laid on his bed, brought his knees to his chest and wept. He felt his life was over; the life he was starting to enjoy and be a part of is wasting away. The pain in his heart was unbearable; he traded his life with the devil and destroyed everything. He knew the days coming would be more difficult and for the first time in his life, he felt scared and alone. His so-called confident and pride were gone. Even though he was just an accomplice but he felt the guilt all over him. He had held the girl’s hands to the ground and allowed her to be raped and abused by another. What is worse than that?
A few days later, Ben was still in jail as his bail was denied. His mother had become a regular visitor to the prison while his father gave several excuses not to come. In fact, Ben had been relieved when he didn’t show up; he couldn’t bear to see him after all he did. He knew he didn’t believe every word he said the other day but his mother had been the sole believer of his innocence and still believed they have him confused with someone else and the judge would see that when they go to court.
Every visit came with fervent prayers for his freedom and encouragement to stay strong. She told him, everyone, they knew believed in him and all praying for him. All these brought more tears to him; he not only disgraced his family but everyone he knew. He left home for a few months and allowed the world to corrupt the innocence in him. He traded his soul for luxurious, wealth and riches. He gave his future which had been solely guarded by the Lord over to the devil to maintain and keep.
Two weeks later
The Court proceeding has been going on for several hours now.
The prosecution called in the last witness, ‘Melissa Gail’.
For the first time in few hours, he lifted up his head which had been bowed ever since he walked into court. He wanted to see the young lady he was accused of raping.
The name came with a face, the name that has been haunting and tormenting him for several days finally came with a face. He recognised her; she was in the same class with him in his primary school, which was definitely how she identified him. During the questioning, he continued to stare at her even though he was deaf to all the questions until Melissa pointed at him.
He shuddered as their eyes met.
“Do you see the man that raped you in this courtroom?” the prosecution asked.
“Yes,” she answered, pointing at him. His heart started to pound so fast as she stared earnestly back at him. He saw the fire in her eyes; he saw flashes of the same eyes that stared and begged him the other night. He knew she wanted him to pay for what he did to her even though she knew in her heart that he wasn’t the one who raped her.
“No further question.” The prosecution said.
Carl stood up and walked up to her.
“How come there is no DNA sample to connect my client to you?” He asked.
“Objection!” the prosecution said. “Speculations!”
“I will rephrase your honour,” Carl said.
“Although the medical examiner gave evidence of you being raped but there wasn’t any DNA to match my client with you,” Carl said.
“Objection!” the prosecution stood up again. “Speculation your honour, the defence should ask his question and not give theories.” the prosecution eyed him.
“Sustained!” Judge said. “Go straight to your point, Mr Henson.” He said to Carl.
“Why did you wash after being raped?” Carl asked.
“What?” Melissa gasped, repulsed by the question.
“I mean, anyone who has just been raped and wishes her attacker to be caught shouldn’t wash from all evidence that could help the police catch her attacker.” He explained to the jury.
“Now, Miss Gail, why did you wash away the evidence that could have help the police catch your real attacker?” Carl straightened, looking straight at her.
“God! I was raped by this animal,” she cried out. “I wanted to get his smell away from me; I wanted him out of me. I ran home and scrubbed myself in the shower. I couldn’t stand his touch on me, his breath; they were disgusting.” She cried out in anguish. “He held me down on the ground in dirt, he held me and raped me….” she stood up, trembling and hysterical. “He raped me, laughed at me and took my life away.”
There was an uproar; the judge was trying to maintain order in the courtroom. Carl watched the expression of the Jury and knew he was losing the case; Melissa had won their sympathy. They felt her pain and the female jurors looked angrily at Ben, some were almost in tears with her.
“What makes you so sure my client was your attacker?” Carl voiced out.
“Because I look into his eyes while he raped me, I wanted him to remember my face just like I will always remember his face. I cried out his name.” She cried out. “I know who he is, Benjamin Cooker!” she broke down in tears.
Ben felt a heavy weight on him when she called out his name. She had known him whilst he held her hands to the ground. He wished the case would end and he’s given the full punishment to his offence. His heart could take no more of this. Everyone looked at him in disgust; they saw him as an animal. He had drunk himself to the extreme and lost all form of reality when he attacked her. He knew if he was in his right sense, he would never have allowed this act to take place, not to talk of being involved in it.
“Case adjourned.” The Judge announced.
Ben was taken back to his cell but he knew it was over; it was too late to make amends. He had searched in the court room that day to see any of his friends or even Josh, but no one was there for him; they left him to face the music alone. What happened to all of their promises to protect and help every brother, despite the fact that he was doing the same; covering for an act he had not committed alone? It was too late to tell the whole truth now even if he wanted to. Seeing everyone looked at him like a monster made him realised he was better off in jail.
The following day, they were back in the court room.
The jury walked quietly into the court; they passed their decision to the Judge who acknowledges it.
“May the defendant rise.” the judge said.
Ben and his lawyer slowly stood on their feet.
“On the account of rape, the defendant is found guilty and hereby sentenced to eight years in prison.”
The sound of weeping from his mother brought tears to his eyes as he was led away. He tried looking for any sign of the brotherhood again but no one was there for him, not even Josh. His heart sank; how could he have been so foolish to allow this in his life? When did he leave the place of God and walked into the tent of the devil? He remembered the verse in the bible, ‘there’s a way that seems right to a man but the end leads to destruction’ He knew every truth about the word of God, he knew his place in his kingdom, and he practically grew up in Sunday school but threw it all away, all for the sake of physical things and to be associated with people who are no help to him. He felt ashamed to be called the son of God.
“I’m sorry Ben; we’ll have to appeal the decision, something isn’t right somewhere and I will get to the root of it,” Carl said to him in the holding room.
Ben was in tears, unable to control himself. He couldn’t believe all that was happening, he had only come home for the summer holiday but ended up in prison.
“Your mother asked me to give this to you.” he handed a note to him and left the room.
Ben stared at the paper for several seconds; he recognized it, this was one of the drawings he did when he was younger, he had drawn a picture of himself and written below a bible passage his mother had taught him to memorize, ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. His mother had told him while growing up that he was a special child, chosen by God and he was a royal, a prince from the household of God, but now, sitting in the cell room, he realised he was no longer a Royal priesthood but a Royal prisoner.
The story just begun.
To be continued.
Photo credit: Pixabay