Duel in the Savanna
By Wanjiru Waithaka
Copyright ©2015 All Rights Reserved
Titus stared at his business partner in disbelief, sure he had misheard him. “Sudipta said what?”
Kenneth shifted uncomfortably in his bamboo cane chair and stared at the floor unable to look his partner in the eye. They sat on the cool veranda of Kenneth’s house in the upmarket Banzu estate to the north of Meribo. A tiny breeze rustled the palm trees providing some relief from the stifling midday humidity. “He said we have to claim Sh12 million.”
“Why?” Kenneth shrugged still staring at the floor which had been paved using gold, grey and brown mazeras stones. “And if we refuse?”
“He’ll tell the insurance company it was arson. They won’t pay and we’ll lose everything. We have no choice.”
“That’s what you said about burning the hotel and look where that got us. I’m done being manipulated by that crook.” Titus spoke vehemently.
“You were right. I should never have trusted Sudipta.” Kenneth’s voice was heavy with regret. “But we’re in too deep. We have to do what he says.”
“Did you tell him we only want what the hotel is worth?”
“So why is he insisting?”
Kenneth looked into the distance, a frown knitting his forehead. “I think there’s something much bigger going on. A plot targeting Bola.”
Titus stared at his friend in consternation. “You think we’re being used to bring down Bola?” Kenneth nodded. “How?” Titus sounded mystified.
“I don’t know.” Kenneth leaned forward, elbows on his knees and laced his fingers together under his chin. “At first I thought that Sudipta wanted a commission for helping us, so I offered to pay him a million once the insurance cheque came in.” He paused as Titus nodded thoughtfully. “He said he wasn’t interested in my money. But he said we must claim Sh12 million.”
“What if we just go ahead and claim ten? What can he do once it’s filed?”
Kenneth sighed and resumed his scrutiny of the floor. “I thought of that and even hinted to Sudipta.”
“He threatened to provide evidence to the insurance company that the fire was set deliberately and send us to prison.” Titus stiffened, his eyes widening in alarm.
“What kind of evidence does he have?” He leaned forward and grasped his partner’s arm, his voice a distressed whisper.
Kenneth shrugged his shoulders once more. “I have no idea.”
Titus cursed viciously. “I’ve had a bad feeling about this, ever since you told me about that guy. What the hell have you gotten us into?”
“I’m not going to jail.” Kenneth finally looked directly at his partner, his eyes bleak. “I don’t know how Bola is mixed up with Sudipta, but he can take care of himself. I’m not going down over this.” A boy of about ten ran out of the house holding a football.
“Mum says food is ready. Will you eat outside or in the house?” Kenneth rubbed a hand over his son’s short hair affectionately. Jake was his first born. His brother Melvin was eight.
“Tell her to bring it here.”
The boy ran back into the house shouting the message. They heard his mother’s soft murmured answer, too faint to make out. “Will you have more juice?” Jake poked his head around the door leading into the living room. His father nodded. A long silence ensued after Jake withdrew.
They could hear the sounds of shouting and laughter as the two boys played inside the house. A brown and curvy woman in her late thirties soon emerged carrying a tray laden with food that emitted a delicious aroma. Fatma was half Arab and half Wada, a tribe from the coast region.
She was always deferential to her husband and spoke in a hypnotic and soothing voice, like a slow jam. She was motherly and charming with her husband’s guests, making everyone feel welcome and appreciated without being obtrusive. Fatma placed the tray on the glass toped bamboo table in the centre of the veranda and bowed, then asked if she could serve them.
Kenneth shook his head and gestured to her to go back indoors. Fatma withdrew with a slight bow and gracious smile. “Karibu.” He invited Titus to serve.
They heaped their plates with coconut rice and fish curry accompanied by a simple salad of thinly chopped tomatoes and onions sprinkled with lime juice. They ate in silence for a while.
“You really think Sudipta will carry out his threat to expose us if we don’t do what he wants?” Titus asked, taking a sip of orange juice. He put down the glass and wiped the condensed moisture from his fingers.
“Yes. This thing with Bola is so important to him, he doesn’t care what happens to us.” Another long silence.
“Looks like Sudipta has us over a barrel. I’ll file the claim tomorrow,” Titus finally spoke, resigned to his fate. They would go along with Sudipta and hope they survived the fallout of whatever he was planning.
Sophie was an emotional wreck. She hadn’t spoken to Tony in five days. They usually spoke on the phone several times a week even when he was out of town. She tried calling his house at the beginning of her Friday night shift but received no response.
Now that the news of her pregnancy had finally sunk in, the question that niggled her endlessly was how it had happened. Tony was a stickler for using protection. Had the condom broken? She discreetly inquired from Josh and David about such a possibility.
They both confirmed that condoms did break though rarely. Great. If only she’d known that, perhaps she’d have used a back-up method. But it was too late now. She was almost eight weeks along. They needed to sit down and decide what to do. She tried calling his house again at the end of her shift. No answer. Where was he?
Sophie got so frazzled that she decided to go to his house rather than go home. If he didn’t want to call her, then she would go to him. She was pleased to see that the rain had let up. It was still grey and cloudy which would make the 30 minute trek to his house easier than it would have been in the blazing sun.
The route took her down a steep valley to the River Ndara, across the bridge and up the equally steep hill on the opposite side which had her panting with exertion. From there it was another five minutes relatively easy walk to the cottage. Relief flowed through her when she spotted his car in the driveway. He was home.
But then why hadn’t he answered the phone? Irritation quickly replaced her earlier relief at finding him home. He took more than five minutes to answer her knock.
She took in his dishevelled state as he opened the door. He was barefoot and wore a wrinkled red tee shirt and black shorts. “Hi Tony,” she greeted him cheerfully as she walked past him into the living room. The curtains were still drawn across the windows. Clearly she had woken him.
“What are you doing here?” he asked in a sleepy voice and rubbed his eyes.
“You said you’d call me.”
“Sophie, it’s too early in the morning,” Tony complained with a yawn. “I just got up.”
“I can see that.” She looked him up and down critically. “Late night?” He nodded, flopped tiredly on the sofa and closed his eyes. Sophie marched across the room, drew back the curtains and opened the windows.
Tony winced as a gust of cool crisp October air blew into the room. She did the same to the windows on the dining side and the kitchenette. “I’ll make coffee while you shower,” she told him knowing he was useless before his caffeine fix. She needed him awake and alert for their discussion.
“I’d rather go back to bed,” he protested.
“We need to talk,” she insisted in a firm tone. Tony sighed but didn’t argue. He got up from the sofa and disappeared into the bedroom. She smiled in approval when he emerged twenty minutes later, freshly showered and looking too damned handsome for her peace of mind in navy blue jeans and a black tee shirt that clung to his well-toned chest like a second skin.
She poured hot water over the coffee granules and sugar she’d put into a mug, stirred and passed the mug to him as he sat across the counter from her. “I wanted to make you something to eat but your fridge is empty.”
Tony grunted but didn’t speak. He took a sip of the coffee and sighed in appreciation as the caffeine jolted his system awake, its fragrance wafting around the room. Sophie wrapped her fingers around her mug of black tea. She hated tea without milk. That’s all they had drank growing up because her mother couldn’t afford milk.
But she needed something to do with her hands to still the nervous energy running through her. She didn’t speak until he’d finished his first cup. “Why didn’t you call me?” She poured him another cup.
“It’s been a crazy week. Dad asked me to accompany him to the farm in Nyago. I came back yesterday and it was one meeting after another. How are you?”
“I’m fine. A little worried though.” The understatement of the year.
“Have you decided what you want to do about the pregnancy?” She stared at his impassive face, surprised by the question.
“Me? I thought we would decide together?”
“Well it’s really up to you.”
“It’s your body. Naturally, you have the final say.”
“But surely you have an opinion on the matter?” She insisted, her eyes probing his. He looked away. She refused to break the silence and waited as he took several sips of the hot brew before finally meeting her gaze.
“You’re too young. Your career is important to you. You need time to finish school, get a job and find your career footing.”
“What are you saying?” He shrugged and sipped his coffee. “You want me to flush it?” Her eyes widened in consternation, her mind reeling.
“As I said, it’s up to you.”
“Quit hiding behind that ‘it’s your body crap’. Do you want me to flush or not?” Her retort was sharp, her body rigid with tension.
“You have to admit, it’s an ideal solution.”
“It’s our baby Tony. We could keep it, raise it together.” She covered his right hand with hers and cupped his cheek with her other hand, stroking it gently with her thumb.
Tony tensed and moved back letting her hand fall away from his face. He withdrew his other hand from her grasp. “Sophie, be practical. How are you going to juggle being a mother with school and work? You’re taking fewer units this semester because the workload was too much. Now you want to add a baby to the mix?”
“It won’t be easy,” she admitted, leaning back, stung by his subtle rejection. She wrapped her fingers around her mug, appreciating its warmth in a room where the temperature seemed to have dropped by several degrees. “Mum raised seven children on her own. I can do it.”
“What about money?”
“What about it?” She raised her chin defiantly.
“Babies are expensive and you still have tuition and other living expenses.”
“I assumed you would help. You are going to, aren’t you?”
“You’re only 20 years old. Why take on this kind of responsibility?” Tony asked instead of answering the question. “All your friends will be enjoying life while you get stuck with a baby. This is the time to explore life, have fun in college. There’ll be plenty of time to settle down later,” he crooned, his dark velvet voice a balm to her raw nerves. He leaned forward, lifted his arm and let his fingers trail a slow path down her cheek.
Sophie drew in a deep breath, battling the confusing emotions racing through her, uncertain how to handle this abrupt shift in his body language and his sudden closeness. She shook her head, a jerky movement as if to deny his words. “But the baby…”
“Is a small problem that is easily taken care of,” he interrupted in the same smooth tone. “I know this great doctor who can do it. One phone call and problem solved.”
Sophie sprang up from her stool and faced him, a stubborn glint in her eyes, lips set in determination. “No.” She folded her arms across her chest, her hands rubbing up and down her upper arms. “I’m not flushing this baby. People die during those procedures.”
“Yes, in the backstreets. This is a reputable clinic. It will be over in ten minutes. They can put you under if you want so you won’t feel a thing.”
“How come you know so much about it? Have you done this before?” Her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“No. When you told me you were pregnant I asked around. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into.”
“Did you even consider keeping it?” She fought back tears.
“Yes, for about thirty seconds. I have a lot going on in my life just like you. Dad is having major issues with the business and needs my help. The timing is really bad.”
“We can work something out if we both make the effort. Please Tony let’s try.”
“Be reasonable Sophie, this is the best option for both of us.”
She shook her head and blinked back tears. “I’m not getting an abortion.”
His expression tightened, his eyes going flat and cold. “If you decide to keep it, you’re on your own. I mean it Sophie.”
“You would abandon your own child just like that?” His steady gaze didn’t waver. “Tony please, don’t do this.” The tears finally fell. Sophie gripped the counter tightly and covered her mouth to smother a sob. “I thought you cared about me,” she whispered, her voice trembling, thick with her tears.
“Why are you doing this?”
“I’m not going to let you rush headlong into something we’re not ready for.”
“Speak for yourself,” she countered, glaring at him.
“Are you really going to stand there and tell me you can take care of a baby along with everything else you have going on?” he snapped. “I can make the call right now. Don’t worry about the cost, I’ll pay for it.”
Her stomach churned in panic. She was staring at a complete stranger. Sophie tried to reconcile the fun, charming, adventurous Tony that she knew with the man staring at her, his eyes cold as ice, his normally sensual expression implacable as if carved from granite, forbidding in its fierceness.
Somewhere between shock at finding out she was pregnant and panicking about what it would do to her life, Sophie had allowed herself to get excited about the baby. One morning on her way home she had wandered into a baby shop on Victoria Street. Her mind roamed with possibilities as she caressed the tiny outfits on display.
She pictured them in the maternity ward, Tony gingerly lifting their new born baby from her breast, cradling her like a fragile piece of glass as if afraid she would break, as Sophie looked on with an indulgent smile. She and Tony bringing their little girl home from the hospital. Taking their toddler for a stroll in the park. Tony pushing her on a swing as she shrieked in laughter.
Sitting in a rocking chair reading to her at bedtime as Tony watched, a proud smiling father. The baby had become as real to her as he was. She couldn’t imagine killing her. But right now, nose to nose in a battle of wills with him, Sophie feared she might lose. She was determined to fight for her baby. Perhaps that meant giving him more time to get used to the idea of fatherhood.
“You said it was up to me. Well here’s my decision. I’m not getting an abortion and that’s final.” She didn’t give him a chance to respond. She strode into the living room, picked up her bag from the sofa and walked out.
The following week Sophie and her friends went to Visions, their usual Friday night hangout. Now that she didn’t have classes on Saturdays and Mondays, she could enjoy the weekends more. She was looking forward to a fun night to escape her problems for a few hours.
She hadn’t seen Tony since Saturday morning. They had spoken twice on the phone during the week while she was at work. Both conversations had ended in a shouting match as they fought bitterly over his insistence that she get an abortion. She still harboured hope that Tony would come around and accept their baby.
She sipped a cold ginger ale, occasionally munched on a salty cracker and tapped her foot to the music. “Why aren’t you dancing?” Carol asked with a playful nudge.
“I’m a little tired. Work has been crazy,” Sophie lied.
The morning sickness which the doctor had told her to expect had kicked in with a vengeance. But in her case, it occurred in the evening. From about 6pm everything smelled and tasted terrible. She had discovered that vigorous activity aggravated the nausea so dancing was out of the question.
Carol nodded in sympathy and joined Helen and Josh on the dance floor, leaving Sophie and David chatting in the booth. Carol rushed back and sat opposite her twenty minutes later, a look of consternation on her face.
“Sophie, can I ask you something?”
“Did you and Tony break up?”
“No. Why do you ask?”
“Where?” Sophie craned her neck and surveyed her surroundings, trying to spot him in the dim light of the club.
“Don’t look, but he’s two booths behind you.” Puzzled by the worry on her friend’s face, Sophie turned and her eyes narrowed in shock. Tony sat facing the dance floor so she could only see his side profile but there was no mistaking that frame.
His right arm was around a woman who was laughing uproariously, head thrown back. They sat close together with her left hand on his thigh. Sophie watched as he leaned towards her and whispered something in her ear that sent her into fits of mirth once more. It was difficult to get a good look at the woman in the dim light of the club but she looked to be in her mid-twenties.
She wore a white spaghetti strap top and a dark coloured miniskirt with red six inch heels. Sophie watched as she crossed her legs and the mini rode up to expose a large chunk of her shapely thighs. Her long hair fell in soft waves to her shoulders.
Shock held her frozen for long agonising minutes as she watched the couple flirt and tease. Tony stroked the woman’s thigh and kissed her cheek. She turned her face towards him and offered her lips which he covered with his own in a deep kiss.
A red hot spike of jealousy and humiliation shot through Sophie as she watched her boyfriend lock lips with a strange woman in complete view of everyone in the club. She stood up with every intention of confronting the couple.
Carol put her hands on Sophie’s shoulders and pushed her back into her seat. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going over there.”
“No you’re not.”
“Carol, let me up.”
“What are you going to do, create a scene?”
“Yes. If that is what it takes to get that woman away from him,” Sophie retorted sharply, trying in vain to get Carol’s fingers off her arm. Helen and Josh strolled up.
“What’s going on?” asked Helen.
“I just want to talk to him,” Sophie insisted.
“Talk to who?” asked Helen.
“Tony.” Carol jerked her head towards the couple a few booths away. They had stopped kissing but were still sitting in a close embrace.
Helen’s eyes widened. “That cheating bastard.”
Sophie shook with anger. “How could he do this?” She made another attempt to get up.
“Sophie no. Don’t give him the satisfaction. You need to cool down before you talk to him,” Carol advised, trying to soothe her friend.
“I thought if I gave him time we could sort out the issue.” Her breath hitched tearfully, her senses reeling at what she had seen.
“What issue?” Josh asked, worry creasing his face.
Sophie covered her mouth and fought the wave of nausea that welled inside her. She pushed away from Carol’s comforting embrace and dashed to the ladies room where she retched painfully for several minutes until only air came up.
She opened the door of the stall to find Carol and Helen outside. They watched her in sympathy. Sophie washed her face and rinsed out her mouth then took the paper towel that Carol handed her. “I can’t stay here.”
Carol hugged her tight, then took her arm and led her out of the washroom. “Josh will drop you home.” She turned to Helen. “Tell him to meet us outside.”
“No. I don’t want to ruin anybody’s night,” Sophie protested as Carol led her around the edge of the dance floor to the exit where Josh joined them a few minutes later. Sheets of rain poured from a black sky as a furious wind moaned. “Josh, you don’t have to take me home.”
“You just received a nasty shock. I’m not letting you go home alone.” He looked at the sky. “Wait here, I’ll bring the car.” He had parked down the block.
“No. I’ll come with you.” Sophie stepped into the rain. They ran down the street and were soaked within seconds. Sophie was crying, tears mixing with the cold rivulets of rain pouring down her cheeks. Sensitive to her pain, Josh let her cry and didn’t speak on the drive to Ngairo.
“Are you going to be alright?” he asked at her gate, his voice soft with concern.
Sophie nodded with a teary smile. “Thanks for dropping me home. And sorry for dragging you out of the club so early.”
“It’s okay. If you need anything just hola.”
“Good night.” Sophie entered the dark house, glad that Luke was asleep. She couldn’t hide her wet state and he would definitely have noticed the tears. She wasn’t in the mood for an interrogation. She entered her bedroom still shivering from the cold, stripped off her wet clothes and put on her warmest pyjamas.
The knowledge that Tony didn’t want their baby and had replaced her so quickly destroyed her. In the long hours that followed, as she wept in anguish, Sophie acknowledged the agonising truth. She had fallen for him hard despite her determination to keep their relationship casual.
The pain that ripped through her as she watched him embrace and kiss another woman had almost brought her to her knees. Now the memory of that kiss replayed in her mind, robbing her of sleep. It wasn’t until the dawn peeped into the horizon that she finally drifted off to sleep, exhausted and emotionally drained.
She woke up at ten but stayed in bed knowing that Luke would leave at lunch time to meet his friends. He knocked softly on her door then retreated when she didn’t answer. After a few minutes the stereo went silent and she heard the front door slam. She threw off the covers and padded into the bathroom to take a shower.
She spent the rest of the day curled up on the sofa watching movies in her pyjamas, which helped to take her mind off Tony and the previous night’s events. Luke didn’t return until well after midnight. She had gone to bed early, but thoughts of Tony and her pregnancy kept her awake.
Sophie got out of bed at 7am on Sunday after another sleepless night, spent tossing and turning.
Luke stared at her intently as she entered the kitchen where the aroma of frying eggs greeted her. “What do you want for breakfast?”
“Whatever you’re having. I’m starving.” She poured a cup of tea from the thermos and took a sip, closing her eyes in pleasure as she savoured the taste of ginger.
“Scrambled eggs, toast okay?”
“Sounds good.” He smiled. Sophie took her cup into the living room, glad that her nausea came in the evenings. She hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before and she was looking forward to a hearty breakfast. Luke watched in appreciation as she put away the eggs and four slices of toast. They talked as they ate, each catching up on the other’s week.
Sophie cherished these Sunday morning breakfasts with her brother. It was the only time they could really sit down and talk, given their vastly different schedules. She got up reluctantly at 10 o’clock, cleared the coffee table and washed the dishes. “Are you coming to church with me today?” she asked him on her way to the bathroom.
“Maybe next Sunday,” he replied absent minded, already buried in the day’s newspaper. That was another of their routines. She had been trying to get him to go to church every Sunday since she moved in but hadn’t succeeded. She showered and dressed then came back to the living room.
She had chosen a red knee length sheath dress with black side panels and black patent pumps. Her long hair was pinned up into a tousled beehive with loose tendrils on the sides which showed off her high cheekbones. Black eyeliner emphasised her almond shaped eyes. She topped off the look with bronze lip gloss. The day was bright and sunny but she erred on the side of caution and carried a black trench coat and a small folding umbrella.
He looked up and surveyed her critically. “You look nice. Going for a date?” She nodded, putting her house key into a maroon clutch that matched her dress. “Have fun.”
“See you later.” The church was walking distance from their block of flats. After the service, Sophie caught a matatu to the city centre and from there boarded another which dropped her off at the road junction leading to Thatwa Ridge.
From there she had the choice of walking or talking a cab. She looked at her heels and opted to take a cab. There were several parked at the junction. She approached one and haggled over the fare for a few minutes before entering the vehicle and giving the driver directions to Tony’s house.
His astonished look when he opened the door was priceless. “Sophie, I didn’t expect you.” He wore grey sweatpants, a black polo shirt and flip flops.
“Surprise!” Her cheerful tone and bright smile hid the anguish of the previous two days. He continued to stare at her in silence. “Can I come in?” He glanced behind him then opened the door wider. “How are you? We haven’t spoken in days.” She folded her coat along the back of the sofa, sat down and placed her clutch and umbrella on the seat next to her.
Tony stood like a statue staring down at her still mute. “I’m sorry; did I wake you or something?” She watched him tense then followed his uneasy gaze to the bedroom door through which a woman walked in wearing his shirt.
“Hi babe did you put on the heater? The water is…” she stopped abruptly on seeing Sophie. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you have a visitor.”
Sophie raised an eyebrow, mouth open in surprise, rendered speechless by the appearance of Tony’s date from Friday night. Barefoot at 5’10 with a pixie face, hair tousled from sleep, long legs that went all the way to her neck and clearly wearing nothing underneath Tony’s shirt; in daylight she looked even more stunning, like a model actually.
“Hi I’m Christine.” She stepped forward and stretched out her hand with a warm engaging smile.
“Sophie.” She shook the other woman’s hand, her voice a thin rasp, barely able to speak past the hard knot of betrayal in her throat.
“I put it on 45 minutes ago. Just let the water run for a few minutes.” Tony’s voice sounded strangled. The air was thick with tension.
Christine took two steps towards the bedroom then stopped and turned. “You look really familiar. Have we met before?”
Sophie shook her head. “I don’t think so. Your face would be pretty hard to forget.” She was surprised that her voice was steady, betraying none of her inner turmoil.
Christine smiled at the compliment. “Thanks.”
A long silence followed her exit. Tony flopped into the arm chair next to the sofa and pushed his hands through his hair, clearly rattled. “I wish you had called before coming,” he finally spoke, staring at a spot on the wall above her shoulder.
“Me too.” Sophie sighed.
“Why are you here?” She opened her mouth to answer but no words came out. I came to beg you to accept me and our child. To tell you I love you. But she couldn’t say the words. Not with the woman he had spent the weekend with in the next room taking a shower. How many times had Sophie worn that same shirt in the morning after a night of lovemaking with him?
The last time was two weeks ago when he gave her a massage. She shivered at the memory. She had felt desired, cherished. It seemed like a million years ago. Now with her pride in tatters, she couldn’t find the reservoir of strength that had propelled her here to plead her case before the man she loved.
She vaguely wondered why she wasn’t screaming. She’d heard other women talk about situations like this, swearing they would attack the other woman and claw her eyes out. She couldn’t even cry. She felt numb. This pain was so deep it went beyond tears.
Her personality was probably to blame. When Sophie got really hurt and the trauma was too much, she shut down emotionally. Even now she could feel a block of ice where her heart should have been.
“Sophie?” He finally looked directly at her.
“I shouldn’t have come.” She stood abruptly, grabbed her clutch, umbrella and coat and headed for the front door.
“You didn’t say why you’re here,” he protested following her.
“It’s not important.”
He grasped her elbow and turned her to face him just before she turned the door knob. “Is it about the pregnancy?”
Sophie shook off his hand not prepared to have a discussion about their baby with Christine in the next room. “Not now.”
“Sophie please.” His rough growl surprised her. She glanced up at him and was startled by the flash of pain in his eyes. Or was it regret? It quickly vanished leaving her wondering if she had imagined it. He put his hand on her arm as if to restrain her.
“I’ve remembered where I saw you.” The voice startled them both. “You were at Visions yesterday, right?” Sophie half turned to see Christine clad in a towel at the bedroom door.
“I…what?” she stammered.
“I was going to the ladies when I saw you come out with two friends. You looked really upset or sick. That was you right?” She gestured with her right hand, the other on her hips.
She felt Tony stiffen beside her. His hand tightened on her arm but she couldn’t look at him now if her life depended on it. Her heart hammered in her chest as she struggled to breathe through the pain. Somehow, knowing that Tony now knew that she had seen them together and become upset, hurt worse than actually witnessing their kiss on Friday night. “Yes, that was me,” she finally told the other woman.
“Thought so. I never forget a face. I’m glad you’re better now.”
“Yeah thanks,” Sophie mumbled. She just wanted to get out and go someplace quiet where she could lick her wounds in peace. She opened the door and fled.