It was Ramsey’s last day on civilian grounds. He was going back to base by sundown and he was all set. The only problem was that he wasn’t ready. Typically, he was feeling no form of excitement. The army had been part of his existence from birth and he was now accustomed to it but he was tired of taking orders. Leonel was his role model and he constantly envied his freedom, watching how he ran his own enterprise and made his own decisions. That was the type of life he had always wished for.
In usual tradition, his brothers had treated him to a farewell dinner the previous night and he still felt lazy from the heavy meal of pounded yam and egusi David’s wife had fed him. Sitting in the silence of his bedroom, darkened by black curtains, he washed down the heaviness with a glass of vodka and Red Bull. His television was on but he had muted the sound when someone he personally loathed appeared on the news.
Ramsey took his fourth sip of the cocktail in his hand, stretched out his legs on a coffee table before him and his eyes went back to the TV screen. And out of curiosity, he picked his remote and turned up the volume and the voice of the man filled the room.
“You’re so full of shit, Ezra,” Ramsey said above the man’s voice yet he couldn’t help but listen to the words that were hitting his ears.
The man on air, Ezra Rahman, had given a speech in a meeting somewhere in New York where some Nigerians who called themselves the Free Nigeria Group had gathered supporters from all across America to listen to him. The video of his impassioned speech had gone viral minutes after the meeting but Ramsey was only watching it on Aljazeera the morning after.
“…for so long they have fed us morsels when we should be eating like kings!” Ezra’s voice was strong and passionate. “For so long they have taken from us what we have worked hard for, what we have bled for and what we have died for, and sold it back to us at a price we cannot afford! But for how long, Nigeria? How long must we suffer this way?! Do I have to stand here and repeat that we are living as slaves in our own motherland, imprisoned by our own brothers? Naija, this is not an invasion from outsiders oh! Na our own people dey show us pepper! And while they are…”
Ramsey drew a long hiss and let down the volume of the television again. But he kept watching and gave thought for a passing moment, to what he had just listened to; and still the words didn’t go down smoothly with him. Ramsey thought about the millions of Nigerians that were carried away in Ezra’s dream of a new government. For here they believed an individual who understood their problems had finally come to cry out for them. Ramsey once believed in him too—a man of high learning and surplus wealth, from the ruling class and of mixed race and religion, a man who had seen the world and yet had put it all aside to fight for his people. And Ramsey, like a crazed fan, sought for and found Ezra’s dirty laundry in a discrete hotel somewhere in Abuja. He was allegedly Ramsey’s first male lover but he had treated Ramsey with contempt afterwards. And that led to a whole different drama between both men that was settled with a few lethal blows on Ramsey’s part and a hospital visit on Ezra’s.
Captain had not been pleased with the news, for Ezra was no ordinary man to him. And that was where the problem lay. Although Ezra Rahman’s voice had become the voice of the youth, the poor and the oppressed, and many believed he was the messiah Nigeria needed, the answer to years of corruption and tyranny; he was just another card played by men whose hands had rocked the seat of power all their lives. To Ramsey, Ezra Jabari Abdulrahman was a sign that power was shifting hands to the most dangerous of men. And that was one more reason for Ramsey to hate him.
A knock drew Ramsey away from the TV screen and he turned to his door. A maid walked in at his permission and informed him that his father needed him. When she left, Ramsey arose from his chair and downed his drink. He had a pretty good idea why Captain called and he already had an answer waiting for him.
He walked out of his bedroom and hurried out of the house and to the next compound where Captain’s private quarters stood. He found the old man in his study, a frail version of him recovering from his heart attack. Ramsey chose a couch by one of the large double-windows and sat, grateful that he didn’t have to sit so close to him. Unlike Leonel and David who were buddies with Captain, Ramsey was dead scared of the man.
“I heard you’re leaving this evening?”
“Yeah,” Ramsey replied.
“Given any thoughts to getting married sometime soon?”
Ramsey had anticipated the question but not so directly.
“Captain…” Ramsey pulled in a deep breath. “Okay, here’s the thing… I…am…bisexual…”
Ramsey had done his best to make his voice sound casual but he heard it wobble as the words came out. A lump in his throat stopped him from saying more. But Captain was calm and spoke in an unaffected tone.
“Tell me something I don’t already know, Ramsey.”
Ramsey almost released his breath loudly. The first confession was easy sailing. He hoped the next would take the same route.
“I want to quit the army,” he said and cleared his throat.
Captain’s eyes slowly lifted from a silver revolver resting on his table and burned holes into Ramsey.
“Pops, we’ve talked about this before. I’m not cut out for military life.”
“So what do you want?”
“I want to make money.” Ramsey stood, encouraged by Captain’s tone. He walked to him. “Look at Leo, he’s making millions every day in his hotel. I can start my own business, pops. I managed your money once and…”
“You almost ran me down.”
“I was learning the ropes. Now I know how to handle cash and I’m willing to work for you. Give me a chance.”
Captain picked the revolver and Ramsey’s eyes followed his hand. “So you want to give this up?” Captain displayed the gun before him. “You know the power this wields?”
“But what’s the army without a war? The endless training is making me crazy.”
“You do know you can’t just quit like that, right?” Captain released the cylinder of the gun and checked the bullets within its chambers.
“That’s why I came to you. You have the power. Just a phone call and I’m out of there.”
Captain laughed. The cylinder locked in, the hammer pulled back and with one squeeze of the trigger, a bullet fired out of Captain’s revolver, tore into Ramsey’s thigh and shattered his bone in a fraction of a second.
Ramsey let out an anguished cry and fell to the floor. “Fuck! Why?!”
He stared up at Captain when he eventually found his voice.
“The bullet is going to do considerable damage to your femur and leave you in a limp for a while. That should be enough for you to be honorably discharged.”
“You shot me!”
The door of the study opened and two soldiers burst in with aimed weapons.
“It’s okay,” Captain told them. “Just a little accident. Get him to the hospital.”
A HOUSE IN VICTORIA GARDEN CITY, LAGOS
Angelic. That was the word that always came into Desire’s head whenever she looked at the woman. Beautiful was another word but it wasn’t enough to describe her, for beauty as hers was rare and priceless; and yet, three seedy, hard-bitten criminals had taken the most of three days to abuse and defile that beauty. Now there were cuts and blood and tears where loveliness once resided.
Desire took her eyes away from the woman and concentrated on what she was doing. In her hand was a glass cup holding a lethal poison of nicotine she had prepared by herself while the 4G brothers were neck deep into raping their hostage. It had taken two days to prepare but she had been afforded all the time she needed. From the moment she called her handler after Sefia’s death and he saddled her with the 4G brothers, her instructions were clear on what to do. It wasn’t her first time working with the three idiots, Oba, Yayo and Blaze.
Though they were called brothers, they were not related by blood but had known each other since childhood. It was that bond that helped them in their crime business. With thirteen years of jail time between them, they knew the underworld more than most self-acclaimed crime lords. They did contractual jobs for wealthy politicians who made sure they stayed out of trouble. It was okay to say they were somewhat above the law, if they stayed within their territory. And their territory was Lagos Island where they ran their business of drug pushing, assassinations, kidnappings and armed robbery. The 4G brothers worked with a wider cartel occasionally, but they ran their game solo and no faction dared go up against them. Everyone knew they had Captain’s backing. But Captain had given the order to have them murdered and Desire was only too glad to do it. In addition to their other crimes, they were serial rapists and she loathed rapists with an obsession.
The 4G brothers, on their part, were careless with Desire, taking her too lightly. They were given clear instructions to keep a cautious eye on her but the leader of the trio, Oba, who always had a thing for her, let her free the moment they got to their location.
The house was a very posh one and the owner was none other than Ezra Rahman. He wasn’t in the country when the 4G brothers paid his wife a visit the night Sefia died. First, they picked Desire not far from Tony’s accident scene, then drove to the house where they killed the guard at the gate and the housemaid and made themselves comfortable in the house as they awaited Ezra’s return. But they had been deliberately misinformed; Ezra was expected three days later. Their only option was to wait until he returned. With a gun to the wife’s head, she was forced to make phone calls to her office and a few friends the next morning, telling them she was going out of town for a family emergency and would be away for three days. After the phone call, the brothers began their assault on her and Desire commenced on putting into order the poison she was going to use on them.
Prepared from ten cheap cigarettes with a mixture of rubbing alcohol heated carefully in a bottle, she extracted nicotine over the course of two days and waited for the appropriate time to strike her victims. Fortunately, the moment came with a phone call from Ezra to his wife. His flight just landed and he needed her to come pick him up at the airport.
“Honey, I…I can’t come and pick you. I’m down with a fever,” the wife said through bruised lips as the brothers listened.
“Okay, it’s alright, darling,” Ezra replied over the speakerphone. “I’ll take a cab. Just make sure you take something for your pain.”
“I love you,” Ezra said and his wife began to sob but Oba buried the muzzle of the gun in his hand deep into her side.
“I love you too,” she managed and Ezra hung up.
The news of Ezra’s coming gave the brothers some sort of relief and they abandoned their prey temporarily. Oba sauntered into the kitchen and found Desire smoking a cigarette which he took from her and put between his lips. Then with one arm he lifted her up and placed her on the kitchen table.
“So when are you going to give me what I’ve been going gaga for all these years?” he asked, his hand slowly travelling up her body.
“What I have is not different from what you’ve been fucking for the past two days.” She stopped his hand and pushed him off, getting down from the table.
“Damn! You’re one hot, angry lesbian.”
“I want to go home, Oba. I don’t know why I’m here.”
“You’ll go when we’re done, Desire. I have to personally deliver you to your boss. I’m sorry; just doing as I’m told. Meanwhile, get the boys something to drink.” He gave her bum a squeeze before disappearing into the living room.
Desire walked to the fridge, opened it and took out three bottles of beer. She uncorked them and placed them on the table and retrieved the nicotine. She stared at the dark-brown liquid and a pleased look filled her eyes. It had been particularly difficult to prepare because of its strong smell. She had taken care to mask it with the smell of food and burning cigarettes. And now into each bottle she put four drops, calculating the time it would take Ezra to get back and for the poison to begin its work. With the same blank face she carried since the day they walked into the house, she took the bottles of beer to the guys.
Oba and Yayo were watching a match but Blaze kept himself occupied with Ezra’s wife. He was trying to engage her in a conversation but the poor woman was too traumatized to respond. She sat on a chair, her head lowered and her eyes fixed to the floor as Blaze’s hands travelled up her exposed legs and disappeared between them. She had lost her will to fight, thus she sat motionless, large tears dropping to the floor. Desire was possessed by a strong urge to take the bottle in Blaze’s hand and smash it over his head but she held back. The beer had to be consumed first.
“Why is this beer bitter like this?” Oba asked, making an odd sound with his mouth as it washed the beer down.
“Na fake,” Yayo replied and took the last drop of his own beer. He asked Desire for more but Oba told her not to get any. Yayo loved alcohol but didn’t know how to keep it down. Desire knew he was going to be the first to react to the poison. She turned to Blaze and saw that he also was almost done with his beer. That was when she sprung into action.
“Aren’t you tired of being an asshole, Blaze? How much more must she suffer before you stop?”
Blaze turned to Desire with a cruel smile. “Care to join us?”
“Oh yes, I will.”
Desire took quick steps to him and gave his face a vicious kick and he fell hard on the floor. Oba and Yayo burst out laughing but Blaze sprung up in anger. He lurched towards Desire and she sent another kick into his balls that had him on his knees. She lifted her leg in one more kick but he caught it and dragged her down. She struggled away from him and picked a side-stool and was ready to hurl it at him when Oba stopped her.
“Drop the stool, Desire.”
Desire appeared as if she was going to obey Oba’s orders but the moment he turned his eyes away, she slammed the stool on Blaze’s head. Oba sprang up and lifted Desire up by her hair, dragging her to the dining area where he forced her down in a chair. She struggled out of his grip and sent a punch into his face. In retaliation, he gave her a hard slap.
“You wan die abi?!” he growled.
“You’re not a human being, Oba!” she lashed. “You…all of you are animals!”
“Then let me show you how animals treat humans. Yayo, get me that rope!”
Yayo picked a bundle of rope on the floor beside Ezra’s wife and tossed at Oba. Oba caught it and in angry grunts, tied Desire to the chair.
“You’ll stay here until we’re done! And it is this way I’ll hand you over to your boss! Slut!”
He turned away from her and marched back to the sitting room.
“You! Get up from that floor!” he barked at Blaze. “You be woman?”
The horn of a vehicle blared outside the house and seconds later, Ezra’s wife’s phone rang. Oba motioned for silence and took the call, activating the speakerphone. He pushed the phone to the woman’s mouth and she spoke.
“Darling, tell the gateman to open the gate please. I’m outside.”
Oba cut the line and ordered Yayo to the gate. Yayo produced a gun and walked out of the house and they all waited in silence. A couple of minutes later, Ezra was pushed in through the front door with Yayo and a gun behind him. He looked dazed as his eyes took in everything, including Desire who had plastered a morose look on her face.
But she had been struck by him the moment he walked in and it was nothing amorous. He had an imposing presence even for a man with a gun to his head. Seeing him face to face, she could now understand why he was Nigeria’s sweetheart. His eyes had brought some calm to her in just one passing look and she genuinely felt sorry for him.
“Ez!” His wife tried to rise at the sight of him but Oba pushed her back into her chair.
“Joy…” Ezra called her in a fading voice, his face screwed up miserably. “What did you guys do to her? Let her go, please.”
“Sit down, Ezra,” Oba said.
“Please, let my wife go and I will do whatever you want me to do.”
“And who told you we’re here for you?” Yayo callously pushed Ezra to the floor and Oba pulled the woman to himself.
“What do you want?” Ezra asked. “Is it money? I have loads of it. Just tell me what you want.”
“I don’t want money,” Oba answered and turned to Yayo. “Do you want money?”
Yayo shook his head. “Ezra, we don’t want money. We want you to tell your wife what you would tell her if this was her last day on earth.”
Ezra looked at him, not understanding what he had just heard.
“Was what I said too difficult for you to understand? My guy, your wife is going to die now. What are your last words to her?”
Ezra was too stunned to speak as the reality of his predicament hit him full force.
“We are on a schedule here, mister and missus,” Oba said impatiently.
“Give me a minute with her,” Ezra pleaded and Oba shoved the woman in his direction. As the couple were allowed their privacy, Desire studied her victims carefully and to her pleasure, she found that Yayo had broken into a cold sweat. It wasn’t going to be long before he complained of other symptoms but just as she was dwelling on the best way to get herself out of the house unhurt, he suddenly began to hyperventilate. Desire had not predicted the rapid reaction but Yayo had longstanding health issues and the nicotine only heightened them.
“Guy, if you wan shit, enter toilet. No dey sweat like fool for there…” Blaze was saying in his deep Igbo accent but Yayo vomited on the floor and began thrashing about like a drunk. Oba’s eyes went straight for Desire but he walked to Ezra and his wife and separated them.
“Why are you doing this?!” Ezra bellowed. His face was glistening with tears. “What have we done?!”
“Please, we will give you guys anything,” the woman begged. “Anything! Please, just let us go… Please…”
“Don’t touch her,” Ezra cried, pushing his wife behind him. “You should kill me instead.”
“On your knees, madam.” Oba ordered as Blaze dragged Ezra away.
“Ezra Rahman.” Oba aimed his gun straight at the woman’s heart. “My employers want you to know that they don’t take too kindly, novices coming to tell them how to run their system. My employers also want to let you know that going by African culture, children don’t tell their elders they are wrong even when they are.”
Oba adjusted his pose as his finger closed in on the trigger. “They also want you to know they are sorry but they hope this shuts you up forever.”
A deafening shot blasted into the air and Ezra tore away from Blaze and ran to his wife. But she hit the marbled floor before he could catch her and with lifeless eyes she stared at him as her blood ran warm under his hands.
Turning away from the couple, Oba gave Yayo a glance and found him in a seizure. He turned to Blaze and also found him struggling to breathe. Oba had been the only one who hadn’t consumed the beer. All he had taken were three sips.
Blaze held a couch for support as he staggered about. “She poisoned us… the beer…”
Oba strode towards Desire and in his eyes she saw unreserved rage. She had seen him in this mode a few times and she knew death was going to become her in seconds. Hence she waited until he came very close and then she sprang up with the knife she had used to untie herself and set its edge to his neck. Starting from one carotid artery to the next, she made a clean, unbroken cut, severing both arteries as she held a steady stare on him. His death came so abruptly that he hadn’t enough time to be shocked; the gun in his hand had fallen from him the moment the knife went through in one swift movement. He slumped to the floor and died before the other two.
Desire picked his gun and headed towards Blaze who, like Yayo, was in a convulsive fit.
“You’ll die soon enough.” She disarmed him and Yayo and turned to Ezra.
“Just do it,” Ezra said and wiped his nose, drawing in a noisy sniff.
“I’m sorry about your wife, Ezra. And I’m not here to hurt you; as you saw, I was taken hostage too but it was my immense pleasure to have the bastards killed.”
“Who are you?” Ezra asked, not taking his eyes off his wife.
“My name is Nafisa. And now, you owe me one. Don’t forget it.”
Desire rummaged through the pockets of the 4G brothers and found nothing of interest. Yayo was jerking, struggling with his final breaths while Blaze lay immobile, his head resting on a couch. But Desire discovered he was still alive when she felt for a pulse. She took Oba’s phone and dialled Captain directly, getting his personal aide after the first ring.
“Desire,” she said and waited. Captain came on after a few seconds. “It’s done.”
Desire looked at Ezra. “Ezra’s safe.”
“Good. Lay low for a while.”
Desire disengaged the call, shoved all phones she found on the brothers into a polythene bag and walked to Ezra. “The police are on their way.”
“What do I tell them about these guys?”
“Don’t worry; it’s a different type of police. These ones don’t ask questions.”
“You never met me, Ezra. I was never here.”
Desire turned to the door and walked out of the house.