The case was totally out of Sergeant Mustapha’s hands. His statement had taken Sergeant Abiola to the Headquarters right after the Assistant Inspector General of Police had requested for it. Mustapha in his statement had made a point of suspicion on Sergeant Abiola’s previous nagging. He wouldn’t know what to think but he truly doubted Abiola could’ve had anything to do with something that big.
Rumor had it that it was the president himself that got the case transferred to the Headquarters right after it became popular news. It was also the first time they would have white men sniffing up their asses, questioning every police officer in the station like it was one great judgment day. People had started saying it was a terrorist attack; it was bigger than Corporal Taiwo who had lost her life.
Mustapha imagined Taiwo’s body lying naked in one of those morgue fridges with one great gaping hole in her head, being completely useless. An officer that was known to be capable of getting things done miraculously than any inspector or superintendent could’ve done, now lifeless and useless. How strange life is! One minute everything is good, the next, you just wouldn’t believe everything was good a minute ago.
What was it about that parcel? A diary of a man eighty-seven years ago! There were pictures in the album that they’ve not shown Bade before he disappeared; pictures of himself eighty-seven years ago. Of course that’s bullshit. The man in those pictures would surely have been his dad or uncle. But was he? One thing had got Mustapha and Taiwo curious, the man in the picture had a scar on his left eye upper lid, like he was cut there, the same scar on Bade. This had made them trace Bade’s birth to the hospital where he was born. They went to check his records at all the schools that his résumé claimed he had attended, right from the primary level to the post graduate level. All those information didn’t only check true, Bade had grown up with his own scar; he didn’t get it from any accident.
Bade Adebanjo had a background; he had parents, and he did look a bit like his dad too. But he wasn’t just looking like the man in the diary, he was that man, the same build, same smile, same scar, everything. There was no video or voice recording for the man in the diary, they would surely have checked if their voices were the same. After they found the photographs of Bade’s grandfathers on both paternal and maternal sides and saw that none of them was this scarred man, Taiwo proposed a theory of reincarnation but Mustapha dispelled it. “That’s bullshit,” he had said. All this was when Bade was away, registering at the premiere University.
One other thing was scary too, the lady in the photograph whom Bade claimed to have known, or perhaps, felt like he had known, according to him. Mustapha hadn’t had time to peruse the diary properly, it was Taiwo who had gone through it and pleaded to be allowed to interview Bade that day, not knowing a shit would hit the fan. Neither the parcel nor Taiwo was available again but Mustapha knew enough to know that the diary belonged to a man called Ismael Cissey on a cocoa plantation in an Ondo village, eighty-seven years earlier, and a name mostly mentioned, at least, that one could’ve easily noticed by mere glancing through the diary was Elizabeth; the lady in the photograph whom Bade felt to have known. The photo album, as it seemed, did not belong to Ismael Cissey as only few of his pictures were there, none personal. In fact, he had only appeared in just three places, one, he and Elizabeth, second, he and an assembly of people who seemed to be family. One would notice a father, a mother, six young men and then Elizabeth. The father, mother, six young men and Elizabeth were the ones most common in the album. The third place where Ismael had appeared was in a picture taken while the picture father was talking to two white men in someplace bushy and people around were laughing, including Ismael, standing directly behind the man. Ismael Cissey only visited the family, and he fell in love with Elizabeth.
They had already got a lot of formats of interviewing Bade prepared on the day he arrived, preparing to not startle him at the slightest, when then the strangest of all incidents had happened; Taiwo was mysteriously shot in the head, the two police officers assigned to tailing Bade were found dead with Bade himself disappearing together with the album and diary sent to him.
Mustapha was angry, several questions beating in his nervously aching head, eager to find out what the package meant, why it was sent to Bade Adebanjo, and who killed all the dead people, starting from the postman to Taiwo. The case was being personally handled by the Assistant Inspector General of Police, and the challenge was, who is a sergeant in the chain?
The fan was rolling hard on his head on that Sunday afternoon, screeching softly as it did. It was harmattan of course but the cold was always in the mornings alone, the sun had replaced it already, scorching like hellfire. The people from the northern part of Nigeria would still call it cold though, at least, they would be right, relatively.
Mustapha’s phone rang.
He didn’t pick it. He let it ring. Taiwo was gone. The witness was gone. His case was gone. Who could be calling him if not one of those officers who wouldn’t go to a bar alone or perhaps the network provider advertising one tariff or the other? He had been on the bed since morning. He married from the Army and Saidat was on a peace mission somewhere. He breathed hard and closed his eyes, it was his Sunday off, he had to sleep off his worries, or at least, pray he could; he hadn’t been able to. Anytime he closed his eyes, he saw Taiwo’s head with a hole in it. The innocent woman just got married for God’s sake!
His door was knocked.
Reflex made him jumped, like, whoever killed Taiwo might have come for him too. He reached for his phone, checked who had called, Private Number, no name shown. Perfect! He knew it! He grabbed his semiautomatic pistol at once but it wasn’t loaded. Holy shit! Of what use is an unloaded gun? Where were the bullets? Stupid him! Shouldn’t he have thought of this? The phone rang again, Private number but this time, he picked it but uttered no word.
“Sergeant Shuaib, are you home? Come and open the damn door.”
He knew that voice but he couldn’t be sure.
“Who is this?” more like a whisper.
“It’s Daniel, Inspector Titus.”
Yes, it was him. He had guessed right but why would he be hiding his number? In case anything gross transpired, how could he be insured? He quickly opened his Facebook app and typed in his status box: “The Inspector with a fish name came visiting, in case…” and updated it. If he died, that should point out who killed him. He approached the door slowly and unlatched it, and there he was, unusually well dressed.
“Morning sir! Come in sir.”
Daniel checked his time and shook his head but he didn’t complain, it was always mornings in forces greetings. “No,” he finally said. “Someone is here to see you, in the car, outside.”
Someone? Outside? Well, outside was better. They wouldn’t just shoot him down in the street, would they?
“Lemme grab my shirt.”
“Okay, be quick.”
So he grabbed a shirt, loaded his pistol, tucked it in the back of his jean and followed him to a big black jeep with no plate number, parked outside by the roadside. Inspector Titus opened the door for him and reluctantly, he hopped inside to find himself sitting beside… who? The most feared woman in the country, Lioness of Washington she was called, Ambassador Deborah Onome, the president’s sister.
“Your Excellency!” Mustapha was stunned.
Deborah was a beautiful woman with rather quiet appearance and voice, lean figure, completely innocent-looking but whenever she spoke in her calm voice into a microphone, presidents of powerful nations fight one another. She was nobody’s pet. She was popular in world politics and hundreds of thousands of people retweeted whatever she posted on her twitter account. At first, people had condemned that President Imoukhuede was turning the government into a family business but then again Deborah had turned out to be David’s greatest nightmare and people applauded that.
She removed her goggle when Mustapha shut the jeep’s door and looked at him smiling.
“Good afternoon Sergeant,” she greeted.
“Good afternoon ma, Your Excellency!” Mustapha was shaking, Ambassador Deborah was the last person any Sergeant would imagine sitting next to in a car.
“I’m really sorry about your partner’s death, I really am. Trust me, I know how it feels to lose a partner. I can literally tell you what’s on your mind right now, how you feel, but… I’m rather going to hit the nail on the head without delay and make it as straightforward as I can. Meet Samuel from the FBI.”
A man bent into view from the front seat and nodded in greeting. “Agent Samuel Andrews,” he said.
Mustapha nodded back courteously.
“You see,” Deborah continued. “There is an averment that a man called Francis is in Nigeria, Francis Whyte, brutal, smart, world best assassin, drug dealer, blah blah blah. I want you to work with Samuel in capturing him, alive.”
She paused to let Mustapha digest that first. Then she continued.
“It is imperative that he’s captured alive. This… is totally off-record you get it? I’ll magically create a leave for you so that you can have time to do this job. And you could be wondering why you’re chosen for it, that’s because your partner’s death and all deaths similar to hers are this notorious criminal’s doing. I don’t know why but the diary and album I was told about, this Bade Adebanjo who had disappeared, you’re the only one who had had direct contact with them. You see, Francis is good, I’ve heard it from reliable sources that he is but I tell you, believe me, this is Nigeria. Francis is a white man, he can’t hide in a crowd of blacks, and before anyone can be smartly smart, he’s gonna have to be good at hiding, now without being able to hide, who do we have? A person not so smart, isn’t it? Do you now see it? The smartness is on the sacrifice table of its opposite meaning after all. Samuel is an American but nobody’s gonna know because he’s black. You know what you’ll do now, you’ll go back into your apartment, cheer up, tomorrow when you’re told you’re on leave with immediate effect, you tell everyone you’re travelling to maybe Jos, Kaduna or anywhere you like until your leave is over, and then you’ll just leave your house and move in with Samuel at his hotel room, you understand?”
Mustapha nodded solicitously.
“I know right now there’s a question on your mind. Why am I interested in this? Well, let’s just say I love fishing, there’s no other way to explain. Now, there you go Sergeant, enjoy your vacation.”
“Thank you ma.”
“It’s okay. Make your deceased partner proud.”
He looked at her once more, this time without a word. He really wouldn’t know what to say. What could he say to that woman? Lioness of Washington!
He opened the door and went out. Inspector Titus entered in his replacement after patting him on the shoulder and the jeep shot into the road, down the street, took a right and went out of sight.
Firstly, he deleted his Facebook post, went to the fridge to grab water, sat down in the couch, looked at nothing for a minute, then finally muttered to himself, “Sub’hanallah, is this happening?”
A journey was laid out for him and he knew it was so deadly wishing him good luck wouldn’t be enough, yet he couldn’t say no or ask questions.
* * *
The remote honking of horns, the whirring of the fan, distanced voices of playing children and a hot political debate on NTA; that was the face of that noon, the second day after the dinner at the Nwanyanwus. It went well, once again, Olawunmi had found a reason to care about her original relationship, from being truly lost on the emergence of a girl Majeed seemed to have taken seriously. Olawunmi, for the third time went to look through the broken window at Lucky who was serving punishment again, washing his dad’s car. The other night, God knew how, he had broken his mum’s vanity glass. Since they both came back from Mississippi, Janet hadn’t had a reason to be angry at him until that very night, the vanity table was not just any table, it was a really expensive one you wouldn’t just come across on Konga. The punishment, as usual, was car washing, and right at it he was.
“You’re missing him already?” murmured Majeed as he tapped on his phone on the couch.
“Missing who?” Olawunmi rolled her eyes.
“You know who, quit the missing who pretense.”
“Who else could you be missing?”
“Stop it, I’m not missing him.”
“Lie! Lie! Lie! You keep going to the window to see if he’s coming and you’ll surely give yourself a heart attack soon.”
“You’re just jealous. He went to the bank to clear some bank stuffs. He’s not going to be back until like three hours to this time, so, will I be going to the window to see if he’s coming when he just left? Apart from the fact that I’ve only gone there twice or thrice, he’s not going to come from that direction, he’ll come from this direction. But would you see that, jealous boy?”
“Like somebody asked you for stories. It’s okay o. I was only worried about you, you know, there’s no reason to be so eager for him to return from bank, he’s probably here to take you back with him. Don’t tell me he hasn’t taken you out for visa processing.”
“Hum, I see what’s wrong with you. You’re afraid of losing me to him.”
“Ah—ah! Afraid of… are you kidding me? I’ve already lost you. The day he came was the day I lost you. And he’s quite good at taking care of a girl, I can see that now, or doesn’t he bath you now? Or is it you that bath him?”
Olawunmi’s brows were arched. She came to face him, now in a frank face, bloated like a nursing fowl.
“You sit there,” she sneered, pointing at Majeed, “feeling miserable. What did you expect? You used my picture on deceiving a guy that I’m the one he’s talking to. Even made me video-chat with him and when you would go extreme, you promised him sex, didn’t you? Tell me, how many times did you sex chat with him, ehn? How many times? He came around to claim his trophy and you’re suddenly berserk.”
“Ber—what? But you could’ve refused to bath with him, couldn’t you?”
“Bath you keep saying. We had sex too, Majeed. Deal with it. We have sex every night, every blessed night in this house and it’s nobody’s fault but yours, g-boy! I’m the one he’s fucking but do you see me complaining? Why can’t you look at the brighter side ehn? He’ll send more money after this ‘cause this is a confirmation for him. The sex is just a sacrifice and with the way he’s talking lately, I think he’s planning to go back soon.”
“Okay, you mean he’s planning to take you back with him soon?”
“He can’t do that? He knows I’m working here and I have a life.”
“What life? Mtcheww! Na you know sef. Just leave me alone please. If you can’t deal with this, just let’s tell him the real truth when he comes back.”
“We don’t need to. Let him take you. It’s better he does because after all this, I don’t want to have anything to do with you again.”
“Pekele-pekele!” Olawunmi clapped her hands one over the other. “Look at you. You’re just behaving like a baby. Are you even listening to yourself? Was I the one who brought him here or you? Tell me. Don’t you want to—”
They froze as thuds rose on the door. If Michael had been at the door listening to them, they were in for a big trial. Majeed beckoned Olawunmi to go and open it but Olawunmi shrugged in refusal. So, hesitantly, Majeed went there instead.
At the door, hand on the knob, he looked back at Olawunmi and they both understood, if it was Michael, he better just got there. He opened the door.
It wasn’t Michael; it was rather a shorter man, Lucky, towel on his right shoulder, toothpick in his mouth.
“Man, may I talk to you for a second?” he asked.
Majeed gestured for him to go on but he said no, he wanted to talk outside. So, Majeed glanced once at Olawunmi who shrugged in response and then Majeed stepped outside and pulled the door quietly closed behind him. Olawunmi didn’t care about what the boy was there to say, she was only relieved it wasn’t Michael.
“I been thinking about what I wanna tell you since last night,” he said. “But… all the fuss about the damn glass breaking hasn’t let me. What… what I’m gonna say is… you know what, I came to offer you a deal, but I want to ask you a question first.”
“Ask,” Majeed said, nodding him a go on.
“Do you like my sister, Chiny?”
Majeed shrank back, blinked frantically, swallowed twice, scoffed and put on a smiling face of why are you asking me?
“I saw the way you were looking at her last night. And you know what, it’s not gonna be a problem. I can make it happen anytime you want. You can talk to her alone today. In fact, I can go into the house right now and tell her whatever you want me to tell her. Now this is the part where you say your own piece.”
Majeed smiled wryly. The boy must have drunk his beer again or just displaying the complication of too much Hollywood watching.
“Okay—okay,” said Majeed enduringly. “What’s in it for you?”
“There you are!” beamed Lucky. “Now here’s the deal. That girl, Olawunmi, right? I like her. If you can win her heart for me, I’ll get Chiny’s for you. Deal?” He held out his knuckle.
Majeed’s smile disappeared abruptly, his eyes focusing on the boy’s mouth. He combed him with his eyes, head to toes and finally, he couldn’t resist the urge; he burst into laughter. He laughed so aggressively the passers-by looked his direction. He danced around the place with his hand over his mouth that even Olawunmi’s head popped up at the window, looking at them.
“I get it, no deal then.” Lucky turned to leave.
“No, wait—wait—wait,” Majeed called and he waited in puckered brows.
“I think I’m definitely gonna like you after all.” Majeed saw Olawunmi and drew Lucky further away from the house so that Olawunmi wouldn’t hear them. “It’s not like I do not like your deal,” Majeed told Lucky, “but Olawunmi is far older than you. She has finished from the university two years ago, hoping to get married soon and not just to date for fun. In fact, I can’t deceive you, she must be older than Chiny. How do you plan to face her? She’s physically taller than you and you’re just… fourteen?”
“I know how old I am, I don’t need nobody to remind me as if… You talk as if she’s too old for me or something but I ain’t no kid man, I had girls who were older than her back in ‘Sippi. You wanna date Chiny or not?”
Majeed looked at him more earnestly now. “I can date your sister without your assistance,” he told him.
“Should we bet on it then? I say the closest you can ever get is one of those stupid dinners, and you can’t woo her in her dad’s presence, now can you?”
“It’s not like she won’t ever come out. I can take her out in my car and express my thoughts.”
“Your so sure of yourself, ain’t ya? Nobody don’t know my sister like I do. Girl ain’t ever gonna ride with you without my push, I can bet my life on it. C’mon man, it’s not like this is gonna cost you any money. Let’s do this, my sister’s worth it, I can’t give you shit.”
“But you know Michael is her boyfriend?”
“That white guy?”
“Yes, Mr. Livingstone.”
“Can you get me Olawunmi or not? White ass ain’t gonna come here to dictate how we lead our lives? This is our motherland.”
Majeed laughed again but briefly. “Okay,” he finally said. “Deal then.”
“Very good, tomorrow morning, dad and mum are gonna go out. Then I’m gonna break something in her room. Guess who’ll be invited to come and help fix it.”
“With that, you become her hero, and you also get to talk with her. Her best colour is sky blue. Her best artiste is Rihana. She’s crazy about her. Her best actress is Angelina Jolie, actor, Robert Downey. You tell her you like all these people too and I assure you she’ll be all over you.”
“All over me like… literally?”
“Not that way yet, no. I mean, all over you, talking with you freely, probably dominating the talk, that’s what I meant.”
“Oh, I see. Okay, okay, I like that. Olawunmi is not going to be easy but I assure you, I will get her for you. She literally likes you already though. The first time you showed up at our door, you remember what she said?”
“I like that boy, I really like him!”
“You don’t mean it!”
“You were there! I swear to God! Look back briefly and look at the windows.”
“Do you see her looking at you?”
Lucky nodded, smile all over his face.
“She’s been looking at you all day, since you came out to wash your dad’s car. I even got jealous at some point, like can you just look at me too for a minute?”
He laughed out loud then, clapping his hands.
“Mehn! That’s cool mehn!” he beamed.
“Yes it is,” nodded Majeed. “She’ll want to sell herself high, but you already have an advantage here, and that’s the fact that she loves you already.”
“Oh my fucking God, this is so good!”
“Yes, so, we have a deal. She doesn’t have best colours like Chiny but I guess whatever you like is her best too, that’s why she seems to have become obsessed with looking at you, right now she’s surely thinking, look at my sweet Lucky boy, his sweet face, nice haircut, I wish I could go naked for him right now and let him put his mouth on my…”
“Mehn!” Lucky was shaking his head. “You’re the real man, mehn! We’re on.”
Bella appeared at their porch at the far distance, looked at the wrong direction first before she looked at their direction and called out loudly to him. “Mum’s calling you!”
“Thanks, man. I’ll work the magic for you. I have to go now.”
“Okay, no problem. Laters.”
Lucky held out his knuckle. Majeed touched it with his and Lucky turned homeward. “You’ll see my green light soon,” he said, running off.
After he entered into their flat, Majeed paced slowly homeward too. Olawunmi was no more at the window, he found her lying on the couch, face up, eyes closed. She opened her eyes when the door thudded at closing.
“What does he want?” she asked.
“You,” Majeed answered.
“You, literally. He’s in love with you.”
Olawunmi closed her eyes back. “It seems you’re high on something.”
“Okay then, if you say so, but the boy’s in love with you and he had asked me to tell you. If you’ll please be a good Christian, you’ll consider his plea and give him the warmth he craves. You have enough of that to go round lately.”
“Fuck you, Majeed Akintola.”
“Fuck you too, Olawunmi Oni.”
“I regret allowing you here at this moment.”
“Are you shitting me? Have you forgotten whose house this is?”
“The house you rented with my boyfriend’s money.”
…to be continued ON SUNDAY!
-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)
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