It hit Ishi in the middle of the night—sometime between 2am and 3am—that he knew what the planes and stars were. He got into a sitting position and rested his elbows on his knees in thought.
A couple of hours went by and the first sounds of an early dawn broke into his bedroom. He got off his bed. In the dark, he fished for his glasses and a t-shirt and walked to the door. On second thought, he returned for his knapsack – a small blue thing that always held his iPad and a few personal items. He took out the iPad and replaced it with a laptop and a modem from his work table.
He walked out of his bedroom.
The sitting room was still in the state in which he had left it the night before.
Stack of work files, plates of food and water bottles littered the floor. Lanre was asleep on one of the couches, arms folded and a fedora covering his face. Ishi had never understood why Lanre found it hard to sleep on a bed but with everything he had heard the previous evening at Igwe’s villa, Lanre’s sleeping habits and a lot of other things about him were beginning to come together. Ishi wondered why he never noticed anything strange before.
Going on tiptoe, he crossed over the items on the floor and went to the front door. His hand gripped the handle and pulled the door open but Lanre’s voice stopped him.
“Where you dey go?”
Ishi straightened his back and turned round.
LEÒN HOTELS/ PENTHOUSE SUITE
Leonel’s fingers marked out little circles on Kyenpia’s shoulder and traced a long line downwards that found her hand. He linked her pinky with his forefinger and she turned around to face him. Her eyes were sheltered by sleep. They settled on him, trying to find his face.
“Her highness visits me. I’m honored.”
“Leo…” Kyenpia purred and smiled into his small, coy eyes.
“And I make her happy still.”
With one unbroken movement, he put himself between her legs and rested his head on her tummy.
“I missed you,” he said.
“You’re not angry at me?”
“How can I be angry when I walk into my room and see a naked woman on my bed?”
“I’m not naked, Leo. I’m wearing a dress.”
“Didn’t notice.” His hands went beneath her dress.
“You’re just coming back?” Kyenpia stared at a clock on the wall facing her. “Leo, it’s six in the morning. Were you really at the office all night?”
“Ask no secrets and you’ll hear no lies.”
Kyenpia gently caressed a scar on his forehead.
“You and I need to talk.”
He tugged at the edges of her underwear to pull them down. “Action now, words later.”
With a slight lift of her body, Kyenpia squirmed away from him and sat up. “I had a bad dream about you.”
“Me?” Leonel adjusted the gold rosary around his neck and lay on his back. In habit he scratched his sideburn with a thumb.
“Some people wanted to kill you. Someone had a gun pointed at you.”
“Did they succeed – in killing me?”
“No. I woke up.”
“So you’re scared? That’s why you came here, stole in while I was working, to make sure I was okay?”
“Awww, that’s sweet. If I didn’t know you better, I would say you’ve fallen for me.”
“Too much of wishful thinking on your part.”
Kyenpia moved from her position and sat astride him. She could feel him stir beneath her as a cocky, lopsided smile teased her body.
“I’m a very lucky man. You’re one breathtaking sight.” He began to undo the front buttons of her dress.
“Why am I so weak with you?” She lowered herself and kissed him, pressing her body to his.
DOCTOR B’S RESIDENCE
Ishi unlocked the door to Doctor B’s house and opened it slowly. Darkness welcomed him and he walked in with guarded steps. A beam of bright light from behind him illuminated a small room with no furniture but having doors on both sides and an exit leading to a long hallway. Beside the hallway was a staircase that disappeared into darkness. The light coming from behind Ishi travelled up the staircase briefly then came down again and rested in the room.
“Lanre, abeg shine dat torch for dat corridor.”
Lanre did as Ishi required and flashed his light down the hallway to reveal a door at its end.
“That’s the control room,” Ishi said.
“Oya, let’s go.” David, coming from the rear, turned on another flashlight and led the way. He arrived at the door and opened it, revealing a dusty room with a single table, a chair and a PC. He spread his light around and found nothing of consequence.
“There’s nothing here,” he turned to Lanre and Ishi.
“Which kain control room be dis one?” Lanre asked.
“I don’t know,” Ishi replied. “But that was what he called it.”
David glanced at his wristwatch briefly. “We have time. Let’s sweep this whole house and find those stars and jets.”
“Planes,” Lanre corrected.
“Aeloplane,” he added in a child’s voice and began singing an old nursery rhyme of aeroplanes.
“Dave, there are twenty-something rooms in this house,” Ishi stated as Lanre kept with his nursery rhyme while exploring the entire room. “Do we want to go through all that stress?”
“Make we just go underground first,” Ishi suggested.
“But underground is connected to Captain’s people.”
“It is only in the main system there that I’m sure we can find anything we’re looking for.”
“But once we open the place, them Captain will find out na,” David said. “Besides, there is no power…”
“There are two back-up generators.”
“And we don’t even have the code to open the place.”
“I can get into the system through a backdoor,” Ishi said and added; “I’ll hack us in. But only for thirty minutes before they find out. And this is a good time because I no know if anybody go dey check the system by dis time.”
“Ishi, wetin be dis?” Lanre flashed a keycard and Ishi turned in his direction.
“Where you get am?”
“Under the table,” Lanre replied and threw the card at Ishi who caught it midair.
“I no know o.”
“Na wa for Doctor B. Everything for dis house na like wan kain puzzle.”
“So Eresoyen, what’s the plan?” David asked grim-faced. He was nothing like Leonel. His eyes were audacious where Leonel’s were shy. “Na una wake me up from sleep. You better have a plan; we don’t have all day.”
“I thought you said we did,” Lanre quipped. David pretended not to hear.
“The whole house is connected to two control rooms,” Ishi explained. “This one and another one underground.”
“Plus one in Captain’s house,” Lanre added.
“Now, the only way we fit break into the system na through the backdoor Doctor B created for times like this.”
“He hacked his own shit?” David asked.
“Something like that.”
Ishi got out his laptop and turned it on. “Lanre, if you follow the kitchen door wey dey lead outside, you go see one stone path wey go carry you go the poolside and bar. For there you go see the gen room. Abeg, on the bigger gen. And take your phone; I go dey yarn with you from here.”
Lanre exited the control room, taking his phone with him. David sparked up a conversation about an approaching family reunion that was to take place in December. He wanted to know if Ishi was attending, since he was conspicuously absent for the last two reunions.
“I don’t know, Dave. You know where I stand with these things.”
“It’s also Gramps’ birthday that weekend. Everyone is going to be around. Try show.”
“December is still six months away na.”
“Plus Leo wants to propose to his girlfriend.”
Ishi stopped and gave David squinted eyes. “What girlfriend?”
Ishi was silent.
“Ishi, don’t let Leo take her away from you. He’s becoming…unstable again. He’s hiding it but I know. She doesn’t need that stress as a pregnant woman; especially not after all I heard she’s gone through with her health.”
There was another silence from Ishi right before his phone rang and the lights in the building went on.
“Lanre.” Ishi answered the call and pulled the chair in the room to sit before the table. “You go see one PC for there. You don see am?”
“Yes,” Lanre replied.
“Put am on and wait.”
Ishi brought out the modem he came along with and connected it to an electric socket in the wall and to his laptop. In just a few clicks, he was linked with a satellite and had access to the internet.
“So what’s going on now?” David asked, peeping into Ishi’s screen.
“Once I plug into the underground interface, I’ll run a program that takes out the pressure plates and motion sensors that will alert any third parties of intruders. But the problem is that the smartdoors are not linked to the interface; they are individually engineered, although each door has the same type of computer chip which means they are linked by a similar element.”
“Exactly. So the trick is the power supply. Lanre you dey hear?”
“I dey hear.”
“So, by sending the right level of fluctuation to the doors from the gen, the computer chips will reset. If the surge dey too much, e go automatically trigger the alarms. So, Lanre, you go dey very careful. You don put on the computer?”
“Tay-tay and I don open the program to control the power supply sef.”
“Oya, for the place where you see the wattage control, carefully use the mouse to fluctuate am. Not too much and not too small o.”
Ishi waited until he heard Lanre speak again.
A window appeared on Ishi’s screen displaying the computer interface of the underground fortification, revealing two different compartments on the first level and four connecting dugouts on the second, with another exit that tunneled outside the house.
“Wow. Doctor B was seriously hiding,” Ishi said.
“More like what is Captain hiding?” David asked.
“This is the first time I am seeing the entire thing.”
“Then how come you know how to operate it?” David asked.
“Doctor B gave me tutorials on how to enter the system. I didn’t know why he was doing it then. As for the gen, I’ve used it before.”
David watched in silent interest as Ishi kept his keyboard busy with his fingers.
“Wetin you dey do now?”
“I dey reset the code for the main underground latch but I don buy us limited time for just thirty minutes. After that, alarm go sound for the person wey dey control am for Captain side.”
David got lost in Ishi’s hand movements but counted the seconds mentally. A few more commands into the laptop and Ishi was done.
“We’re in,” he announced, getting up and picking his equipment. “Let’s go.”
But David was already at the door and Lanre’s line had gone dead. Ishi shook his head with a smile and left the house.
CAPTAIN’S BEACH HOUSE/ TAKORADI, GHANA
Captain had an early visitor. Emem came to him while it was yet dark, her little eyes like bright night lights, pulling him out of a terrible nightmare. Watching her immortal form glide through the walls of his holiday chateau, he allowed himself get led by her and they took a walk out to the beach. There he found his other human guest waiting. He sat and watched Emem walk down the shore and into the lapping waves of the ocean until they swallowed her completely. Minutes later she re-emerged and he smiled.
“Why are you smiling?” his guest beside him, asked.
“Nothing,” Captain replied, staring deep into Emem’s eyes as she called him to join her.
“Oh, I so love this. Pure bliss,” his guest let out a moan. Just like Captain, she needed the absolute silence and privacy the beach offered. Her aging body also craved the caress of nature. As their security detail kept an eye over them in the shadows, the pair relaxed on pool loungers and watched the hungry ocean lashing at the shore.
“By morning the ocean recedes and takes back what the queen of the coast has asked it to come for.”
Captain looked at the woman beside him weirdly.
“My mother had all these stories about the marine world and she loved sharing them with me. She believed I was a mermaid.”
“What do you want to really talk about, Princess?” Captain lit a cigarette. “I’m sure it’s not about your mermaid-ness.”
Princess laughed and dug her bare feet in the beach sand. She allowed a yawn, managing it stylishly with a bleached hand over her mouth. Princess was no ordinary woman. She was Captain’s stepmother and Igwe’s third wife, the only woman that held the title of First Lady amongst the Igwe women. She was widely-traveled and a royal princess of the Zulu nation by birth. Her megalomania preceded her and so did her academic honors. But her dark side lay hidden behind a practiced smile she always wore. Her husband often joked that she could even kill a baby with that smile etched on her face. She was never apologetic for her murkier side to those who knew her. It was her cutthroat policies that made Igwe entrust his dealings into her hands while he was still in power. Behind the spotlight she managed his affairs with an iron fist; every hard-hitting decision of national interest he had ever made was first cooked in his bedroom with Princess stoking the fire. It was for this she was dubbed Ice Princess.
However, she was only a puppet in the arms of Captain. Their relationship had gone far and beyond a son and his stepmother. They both possessed a ravenous, evil desire to hold power. Seeking a common goal, they joined forces with four others and began the Cabal. The six of them had ties from an earlier time and it was with that bond they formed an impenetrable union with Captain as their head.
“The others are not taking the Ezra thing well,” Princess spoke, answering Captain’s previously thrown question.
“Who are the others?”
“Nobody from the six. I’m talking about the interlopers.”
“Suddenly slaves grow back their tongues and lash at their masters,” Captain murmured, following the dance Emem was making to mimic the waves.
“But they have a point, Luke. We already had a plan, a prepared candidate for the job. Why go and bring in Ezra? He doesn’t even represent what we believe in. And he’s not fully Nigerian.”
“And you’re completely South African, Princess; yet you ran this nation from between your Zulu legs. This is my romp in the sheets with Nigeria’s future. I need to exercise my autonomy. And by the way, are you here to voice your objection or speak for these… interlopers?”
“I’m only here as messenger.”
“Then I have no explanation for my actions, especially not to men I personally raised to do my bidding. Ezra will be the next president of this country and that’s final.”
“Then we better pick a wife for him from one of ours; the rumors about his indiscretions are going wild. Some even believe he’s behind his wife’s murder.”
“Rumors are necessary.” Captain smiled. “But no worries. I already have that covered, Princess. First he has to grieve and not give up on his cause. A wife will come when the need is paramount. As for you, forget those rats that are nibbling on more than they can swallow. Everything will be settled in the meeting today and they have no say in such matters.”
“So we’re sticking to schedule?”
“To the very last minute. I want the names of these ‘others’. They need to be silenced.”
Princess understood Captain’s language. ‘Silencing’ a man was usually a stern warning before he was ‘visited’. No one came out alive after a visit.
Princess yawned again and picked out a grain of sand off her lip. She leaned back and shut her eyes and the pounding ocean lulled her into a slumber while Captain kept himself occupied with his burning cigarette as he watched Emem bring the dawn to life.
DOCTOR B’S RESIDENCE/ UNDERGROUND COMPARTMENT
“The money’s a distraction. Look away from it.”
“Oh-my-God!” Lanre exclaimed despite Ishi’s forewarning. The room left wide open before him contained Captain’s stack of dollars and Lanre tried to imagine what Hamza and his friends felt when they first walked into the place.
David put an arm on Lanre’s shoulder and pointed him in the direction of the second room on the left. Ishi opened the door and they all walked in.
“Oh-my-God!” Lanre exclaimed again.
“Well, there go your planes and stars,” David muttered. Ishi’s eyes looked up to the ceiling. It was covered with paper planes and stars in different primary colors, hanging under tiny light bulbs. Like a fan fixed to the center of the ceiling was a large star made in carefully crafted Japanese origami, making the others look like afterthoughts.
Most of the room was dedicated to a computer control center just as Ishi had told them. There was one large table in the middle with three different computers and an entire wall carrying small computer monitors for surveillance cameras. In one end of the room a student bed rested with a big, old, dusty Bible thrown open. The other end had a chess board on the floor and a stuffed animal sitting in front of it.
Lanre began his aeroplane song again as he picked out other things in the room—a small tumbler under the bed containing an orange-colored liquid, female footprints before the bed that had almost been erased by time, scratch marks on the table from someone who obviously had long fingernails, a diamond stud earring wedged between one leg of the table and a piece of colored paper on the floor and finally, the intricate arrangement of the planes and stars above.
“Okay. We have less than fifteen minutes,” David said in brisk military manner. “Let’s get these stars down…”
“Wait!” Lanre stopped him. “We have to get them down and rearrange them exactly as they were arranged. There’s a pattern.”
“Are you kidding me?” Ishi whined.
“Does anybody have a pen?”
Leonel was sitting on his bed but his feet were resting on the floor. His back was to Kyenpia. He was naked and so was she but she was in the process of getting into her dress. Daylight was fighting hard to sip in through the dark drapes covering the windows facing the bed but it left only a beam that settled on Leonel’s form, drawing a fine line between his eyes.
“Was it a game between you and Ishi or what?” Leonel held a steady voice but his shoulders tensed, bringing out well-toned muscles on his upper arms.
“It wasn’t a game, Leo.” Kyenpia put away her dress and picked her bra.
“Then explain to me, Kyen. Explain why you might be carrying his child. None of this makes sense.”
Kyenpia got off the bed and circled it with cautious steps to stand before him. “Do you really want to hear the truth, Leonel?”
His eyes were to the floor. The sunbeam from the window emphasized the different shades of light cast on him from the opposite sides of the room.
His left side was darker than his right and Kyenpia felt she was looking at two different persons in one body.
“I do want the truth.”
“Almost five months ago, on my birthday, I woke up with you on this bed, but you did not recognize me…”
Kyenpia stopped for a reaction. All she got was the flexing of a muscle.
“It took you a shower and two shots of brandy for you to remember my name. After that, you looked into my eyes with this really creepy look and told me that if I was after your money, I was getting none from you. Then you asked me to leave.”
Kyenpia stopped a second time. Leonel remained motionless.
“I can’t tell you now what I was feeling then; but I was so afraid. I didn’t leave immediately even after you went to work. I stayed back and ransacked this room, looking for something that could explain why you behaved the way you did. And I found a book…”
“A blue book. An old one. Not a diary but a place that contained all your secrets. I found out everything, Leonel. Everything about your dissociative identity disorder.”
“My split personality? Or just call it my demon possession.” The acerbity he worked out stung her.
“I was scared. And I also found out that you had been stalking me for a while before you met me. And that you were obsessed with me and felt that I was the only one who could save you from your… madness. In your words, ‘Kyenpia is the cure to my mind’s ill. She is my sunshine. Her light will heal my darkness. Her dark will be my brightness. I will have her or I will die.’ How do you think those words made me feel, Leonel? Or is it Daniel?” She moved closer. “Who am I talking to now? Or maybe it’s Spirit, the little boy puppet of his father who has refused to grow?”
“Shut up. You know nothing.”
“Yes, I know nothing, just like I didn’t know anything that day! You could have told me! How do you sleep with someone and plan a family with them and leave that type information about yourself out?!”
“It was you who wanted my body and nothing else, Kyenpia. I was just a dildo to you. A sperm donor. Somewhere in the middle you found a pillow you could cuddle up to at night. But please, don’t let me interrupt this interesting tale. Go on.”
“On how Ishi and I came about the plan for the baby, I don’t want to explain. It’s between us.”
“What is top secret there, Kay? He asked to be the father of your child and you said yes.”
“Okay, yes! I said yes because Leo, I was scared when I looked into our future!”
“But we were never going to have one, sweetheart. You didn’t want marriage or anything that sounded like it. And that is why you took a life’s decision without consulting me. Is it because you did not have sex with Ishi that you think you didn’t cheat on me?”
Kyenpia was uncomfortable with Leonel’s calm. Nothing in him indicated any form of anger. It was the same voice and manner she had woken up to on her birthday. She was afraid that the Leonel she had just made love to was gone and the man that kicked her out of his life was back again.
“I didn’t want to give you a chance when it was time to make a choice between you and Ishi but my conscience stopped me,” Kyenpia explained. “So I relabeled the sperm samples and one was chosen for the fertilization.”
“Why didn’t you just choose Ishi? Why the games, Kay?”
“I am sorry and I mean it. Everything’s so screwed up now.”
“No, you’re not sorry. You’re waiting for me to slip up again so you can run into the arms of the man who has loved you for ten years unconditionally. That’s what you really want.”
“I said I am sorry. I can’t say any more than that.”
Leonel reached for her hand just as she was walking away and drew her to him. He stared at her baby bump for a long time and then he laid a kiss on it.
“This is my baby. No one will take him away from me.” Leonel stood up to let his body feel the smoothness of her fullness. He looked into her eyes.
“You’re forgiven because your dark will always be my brightness, sunshine.”
Kyenpia felt a shiver when his finger caressed her cheek. But it traveled down and settled over her, a flame ignited.
She looked into his eyes and just as she suspected, her Leonel was gone. She was with a different man. She didn’t know who this person was with lips that were cold over hers. Hands touched her as if for the first time and one of them came to rest over her left breast, reading her heart.
He felt her shiver as he let his hand travel down to settle between her most guarded place.
He could see her studying him. There was fear in her eyes. She didn’t understand why he remained so calm after all she just told him. She was still expecting some form of reaction but all she got was the arousal his fingers caused between her creamy lips.
“Don’t be scared, Kyenpia. I will never hurt you. Never.”
He kissed away the fear and doubt on her face and led her to the bed again. Lying beneath him, her breasts skimmed tantalizingly against his chest and he almost lost his mind.
The heat from her core called to him as she opened up to let him in. He buried himself deep inside.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. He could see moistness in her eyes. But his reply came only in movements. This was going to be a long one and that was because his mind was elsewhere.
He was thinking about the million and one ways he wanted to kill Ishi.