Somewhere in Lagos, a Chinese lady drew the door closed as she smiled upon the front page of Nigerian Tribune newspaper. She was coming from the outside and her Russian friends were already waiting for her.
There were four of them sent from the League to bring Francis to Russia alive. They were not just any men; they were one of the best world assassins. Their leader, Boris was used for secret operations by the Russian government until he faked his own death six years earlier. He had to. He was in prison and they only took him out whenever they needed him but would return him back to the prison after every operation. That was not a life, so when the League captured him and offered him a space, he bit at it cheerfully. His death was faked after then and he got initiated into the Russian League.
The League of Hit Men was a powerful international organization. Anything they touched; Interpol, FBI, CIA, FSB, MI6, ASIS and others alike had to back off, for people in the League had proven times without number to be more powerful than any government of any nation or its Intelligence Agencies. There was the British League, French League, Russian League, American League, Chinese League and the Egyptian League with separate leaders and an overall leader whom nobody knew but was only referred to as The Warden.
Boris was the one who handpicked Xia to tag along on this particular assignment; he had known her since a time when she was sent by the League to apprehend him. Xia was the first female but the second person to ever go successful at putting him in chains, the first person was a man called James Bond whom he had trusted, not knowing that he was an undercover agent for the British MI6. Boris had fallen in love with Xia then, he saw her as a great talent in the assassination industry. The other two members of their little crew sent down to Nigeria were Ivan and Abram, ex military operatives for the Russian government.
“Three policemen die in one day, man disappears,” Xia read as she entered, smiling.
Boris seized the paper from her, glanced through briefly and nodded his bald head. “It’s him,” he said confidently.
“I know where he is,” announced Xia proudly.
“You do? How did you find him?” Boris asked astonishingly.
“I have friends in the CIA, c’mon, what kind of question is that?” she snatched the paper back from him.
“Boris,” called Ivan. That one had Russian accent in his English. They had to speak English because Xia couldn’t speak Russian. “Is it true you’ve encountered this guy, Francis before?”
“Yes,” said Boris, nodding.
“Would you care to tell us about him?”
“I’ve been telling you about him since we were summoned for this assignment.”
“You know he forgets things easily,” giggled Xia.
“Yes, I can’t hear enough. Tell me about your encounter with him, how he moves, talks and so on.”
Boris drew his revolver and pointed it at Ivan.
“I was right behind him like this,” he narrated. “Stop there asshole! I’ll blow your brains out if you move! He stopped, dripping of blood. I wouldn’t know whose blood exactly but he had shot like twenty of our men down already, good men I’ve trained with I tell ya. So he turned around to face me and I was surprised, he was just an ordinary man like us, I had expected to see horns on his head and scales on his body like a fucking reptile? Before I could blink though, son of a bitch already kicked my gun from my hand. Can you imagine? It was so fast I didn’t see him do it! The gun was suddenly in his hand and he was pointing it at me. I was amazed like… holy crap, what the fuck! I saw a spark of the black powder through the muzzle and three bullets came cutting through the air towards me, from my own gun. I dodged the hollow point motherfuckers and one only scraped my cheek, slightly but it hurt I tell you, it hurt like hell. He would expect me down of course but his neck was in my grasp before he knew it and when I gave him the shit out of my heavy knock in the face, he choked on his own teeth but the motherfucker had still got strength in him, he was damn fast and slippery. I got my gun back at once and fired at him. That was the end. I only saw the drop of his blood all over the place but no dead body. He was a bloody ghost.”
“That’s it. I’ve never come across him again since then.”
“That’s it? You mean, that’s all?” asked Ivan.
“Unless you want to add your own scenes to it, motherfucker.”
“Then you’re not as good as I had imagined then. Even my dick could have done better,” said Ivan, laughing.
“Would you have brought your little man to a gun fight and let him shoot it off you fool?” chuckled Boris.
“I can’t wait to meet this Francis,” exhaled Ivan.
“Me too,” said Abram.
“Me too,” said Xia too.
“Me too,” Boris frowned. “He’s an old friend. I love him for being this popular.”
“And you think he’s just gonna shake your hands and follow you to Russia, fool?” said Ivan.
“Yes, after I have offered him your mother to fuck.”
They all laughed, only Ivan didn’t.
“I’ll be happy if he shot off your face. I’d gladly do it myself if he failed to,” sneered Ivan.
“Suck my dick.” Boris raised a middle finger and everyone laughed.
“I pray to see that day you put your dick in my mouth and you’ll come to learn of how sharp my teeth are.”
“Xia, gimme the paper and let me see what we’re after,” said Abram.
“See what we’re after?” Xia giggled. “It’s not like his picture is there. Can you read English?”
“Are you kidding me? Can I read English? You don’t mean it, do you? Gimme the paper right now or I put a bullet in your boobies.”
“Not before I shoot your small floppy dick.”
They all laughed. She threw the paper on his lap.
* * *
“Majeed,” said Olawunmi dominantly. “It’s you I’ll ask. Are you up for this?”
“Yes, let’s go.”
“You can stay behind if you want to,” hushed Olawunmi, “we could tell them you went out.”
“Wait—wait, why are you saying this? Why do you think I’ll not want to go or I’m not up for it?”
“You were the one who had a problem with the boy.”
“I can’t believe you’re talking this way. I didn’t have any problem with the boy; the boy had a problem with us all. He broke the window! It’s not my room’s window, is it? It’s the living room’s window and the living room belongs to everybody, doesn’t it?”
“It’s okay,” said Michael. “You’re right. Let’s go Olawunmi.” He took Olawunmi’s left hand under his right arm and Majeed closely came behind with his hands in his pockets.
It was quite a soothing night. One of those harmattan nights when sitting at one’s balcony at night would be applauded by the visitation of fresh air which was very likely to increase the soundness of one’s subsequent sleep.
It was Michael who knocked and it was Lucky who opened the door. It was always him. He looked them up, smiled not in a very friendly way and then just stepped aside to reveal a living room with cartons of stuffs still stacked to a corner, making the dining table to be forced a little further inwards, away from its supposed state of rest.
Mr. John Nwanyanwu, also known as Papa Bella, their dad was at the three-sitter couch directly facing their 32 inches hunchback telly, watching Channels TV. A little girl was quietly straddled in-between his legs, her back on his belly, dozing but trying to watch the telly too. Lucky had disappeared and as Papa Bella said the pleasantries, motioning them to sit, Mama Bella rushed out from behind a curtain, big spoon in hand.
“Yes, you came just about time,” she beamed. “Michael, look at you! Who dressed you up in this Nigerian shirt?”
Michael pointed at Olawunmi and Olawunmi smiled courteously.
“Oh sweet you! I am impressed.”
“Thank you ma.”
“Chinyere!” she called. “Grab the trays mae we serve o.”
Individual took seats and watched the telly. It was the news about the police station attack. The issues had become popular too quickly but Michael didn’t have a reason to pay attention until just then. He nodded and smiled to Papa Bella’s comments on the story until suddenly the picture of the missing person was shown and Michael stilled up. All expressions of humour vanished from his face and he stood from his chair and moved closer to the TV as if he wasn’t seeing clearly from his position.
“Michael, do you know him?” Olawunmi was the one who got most worried by Michael’s reaction.
“Michael, you know the man somewhere?” she reiterated.
Michael didn’t respond, he stood right there and looked at the screen until the man’s picture was removed and something else was shown.
“Michael?” Olawunmi was on her feet then and the others were intently watching.
“Huh, what?” he flinched.
“What’s wrong with you? What’s with you and that man? You know him?”
Majeed also rose slowly. He had been tweeting about that story and making humours out of it on his blog as he had usually done on every trending news item in the country.
“Oh my God!” Michael exhaled. “That guy looked very much like my negro friend back at school. Leukemia got him, and…” he shed tears, “I’ve never met anybody as brilliant as that guy. He was very brilliant! And he was my friend!”
They entered a mourning mood, in remembrance of a friend their friend had claimed to have lost to leukemia back in school. Papa Bella was the only one who understood Michael’s feelings because he had lost good friends too and it was painful.
“Such is life my friend,” said Papa Bella. “How many good friends we don lose in this life? Na our greatest enemy death be.”
Everybody returned back to the seats; Papa Bella changed the channel and just then Mama Bella, Lucky and Chiny emerged with trays in hand. They placed the trays gently on the dining table and went back in the kitchen to bring what else was to be brought.
Everyone was called to the table. Papa Bella sat at the head of the table, Majeed sat by his left, opposite Chiny. Olawunmi sat next to Majeed, opposite Lucky while Michael sat next to Olawunmi, by Mama Bella’s right who sat at the tail of the table. Bella, the youngest child whose head only slightly rose above the table sat by her mother’s left, opposite Michael.
As Lucky smiled at Olawunmi and Olawunmi scoffed, thinking, is this boy okay? Mama Bella winked at Michael who was afraid to respond same because he suspected either Papa Bella or Olawunmi might be watching him. He would’ve preferred that he sat next to Chiny but the beauty was the last to come to the table and only took the vacant seat. Majeed was trying to steal looks at Chiny but Chiny caught him every time he did.
Lucky had already started eating before Papa Bella yelled at him and asked Chiny to pray.
It was the first time Chiny’s voice would be heard in a lengthy manner, the other time was just “Mum, you have a call” and she had said it rather too quietly.
While everybody closed his and her eyes, Majeed gazed at Chiny, and it was Olawunmi who elbowed him that brought him to closing his eyes at least halfway to look at his crush.
Amen! Amen! They started to dine.
“How do you find it, Michael?” asked Mama Bella after a minute.
“It’s good—it’s good! I really like it.”
“Yeah, that’s jollof rice baby. You ever heard of that before?”
“Of course, Olawunmi here had cooked it for me several times, but I must confess, I never experienced it this good.”
Olawunmi jostled Michael, saying, “You don’t mean that!”
“It’s true,” added Majeed. “It’s the best jollof rice I’ve ever eaten.” His gaze met Chiny’s whose lips were stiffened sarcastically and they looked away almost immediately.
Lucky looked at both of them, laughed shortly and continued eating quietly.
“Chinyere cooked it,” Mama Bella announced. “My daughter is gonna graduate with First Class in Nutrition Science.”
“Wow, which school?” asked Michael.
“Lagos State University.”
“Oh, I guess we better start saving money to buy her a graduation gift then.”
Olawunmi rolled her eyes.
Chiny smiled. “First Class my ass,” she murmured, looking at Majeed who was smiling at her.
At this point, Olawunmi looked at Majeed searchingly after seeing that Chiny had murmured something to him. When Majeed noticed Olawunmi regarding him, he gave her a ‘what’s your business’ look. Majeed was angry his girlfriend was being leased temporarily into another man’s leash; Olawunmi was wary his boyfriend was going to be snatched by another girl.
“You no ask your husband how the food is, I just dey look you,” protested Papa Bella finally and Mama Bella was about to answer when Papa Bella suddenly farted quite loudly.
“Ah, I’m so—” more rockets escaped his anus and this time, everybody stilled up, looked nowhere but at him. How funny he looked then, looking like someone who was seriously sorry for something that was totally out of his control.
“C’mon, na sign of good health, chop-chop,” he said, trying to be jovial then but all the spoons remained hung like they were, in silence.
It was Lucky who made the first sound as he pushed back the chair crossly and left the table to grab the TV control.
Michael resumed eating slowly, followed by Mama Bella, Bella, Chiny and then reluctantly, Olawunmi and Majeed.
“You better get yourself checked up at a nearby hospital, Papa Bella! You is gonna embarrass yourself at a job interview someday.”
“Who go interview me, ehn? I be the boss! I interview people!”
“You stupid boy! If I come there to collect that remote from your hand, you go go heaven and come back today. Come back here and finish your food! You don forget wetin your mother tell you about wasting food? Igea richa irirhu taha.”
“I’m not eating again!” he stood and swayed his head into some room behind the curtains.
“Is it because of that girl you’re suddenly boring and mute like this?” Olawunmi bent to whisper in Majeed’s ear.
Majeed shouldered her off and beat her with his brows. None of your business! Stick to your white boyfriend! They both knew a great argument would come after Michael had gone back to the United States and they were both most assuredly preparing for it. Majeed was going to accuse Olawunmi of sleeping with Michael in his own house and Olawunmi would ask whose fault it is that Michael came to Nigeria? Who was the cyber conman?
They ate on with Mama Bella doing most of the talking and making everybody laugh. Meanwhile, if it was a day she didn’t feel like talking and somebody else talked, she would be the one talking about table manners.
Just when they were standing from the table at the end of the dinner, there came a loud noise from inside a room, like the shattering of a big glass; Micheal flinched; Mama Bella screamed “Oh my God!” and Papa Bella rushed inside. The noise had come from inside the room.
…to be continued ON SUNDAY!
-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)
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