It was well past one in the morning when Captain finally turned in. His bedroom had been pre-cooled for him and he switched off the air conditioner the moment he walked in. He didn’t bother to turn on the lights as he rested his back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling.
“Hope you didn’t miss me too much?” he asked the form that lay in the nude beside him.
“How did the meeting go?” Emem inquired and Captain turned.
She seemed to be floating over the cool blue of the bedspread. He sat up and worshipped her with his eyes, fancying himself a magician that had succeeded in making his subject levitate. A voice prodded him to touch her but he was afraid she would vanish if he did. Still he was tempted. As he pondered over it, she petered out from his view and took a place by the door, fully clothed, but in the last dress he had seen her in. It was a white piece that stopped at her knees with red polka dots; in her hands and hanging loosely around her waist was a shimmery gold veil that matched her heeled sandals. Her hair was in jerry curls held up in one side by a small hairclip.
A morbid image of her death, depicting how her perfection had been sullied by her own blood in the moment of her passing floated in Captain’s memory but it stirred nothing in his emotions. He had long cried his tears over that terrible night. Now, something else bothered him. Her appearance in that particular manner only meant she was there to give him grief over something. He didn’t really know what. Hence, he asked, looking into the lucid caramel of her eyes that held her poltergeist. An answer from her came to him not in response to his present question but to another he had asked so many years before.
“It was because of this plan of yours to rule this country that I left you, Luke. I told you to forget it but you insisted and lost yourself and lost me. You were a good man, then, but you chose this dark path.”
“You were a child, Em. There was no way you could understand what I wanted to do.”
“A child? I beg your pardon, sir. I carried your children, Luke. I bore them without the presence or acceptance of a man I loved to death. Then I spread myself thin as you unloaded the burden of your vile insanities and troubles on and into me every single night. I held the secrets of great men in this country; I kept them all for you and didn’t cave under the weight! And I put up an act in the daylight, enduring boring dinners and parties because I had to be the perfect, little wife! How could a child have borne all that? But I did. And what did I ask for? Only that you be a good man; I didn’t even asked to be loved back. But you were dogged on your mission to ruin lives that you were past listening to reason. I cried, I begged, I fasted and prayed but nothing in you changed. Your lust for blood and power was stronger than you. It was the other person in our marriage, a shadow that hung over us and the boys. And as I stand here in this room with you now, I see it has grown and spread over you. Light can no longer find you even if it tried.”
Emem’s eyes followed a shadowy death form that hung over Captain. Captain dared not look. He had seen the evil thing before and had been haunted by it for weeks. He knew it followed him everywhere.
Emem continued. “What is sad is that my boy has this same evil around him.”
“Leonel is fine,” Captain said dismissively.
“But he’s not why I’m here. I came to warn you not to do what you’ve planned to do. If you insist on this course, you will never see me again.”
Captain moved away from the bed and towards her but she faded out, leaving him alone in the darkness.
“It has taken three decades in planning, Em.”
He looked around, searching for her.
“Lives and so much money have gone into it. I build a dynasty for our sons and for the entire family. I’m leaving a legacy that will last even our great grandchildren and their children. Why is it so hard for you to understand that? You have to admit, Em, no one on this side of the world has accomplished what I have done. It is unattainable and yet I do it. I feel…superhuman. Almost godlike…beyond human reach…untouchable.”
He grinned out his pride and pleasure.
“And yet you will die like a man.”Emem returned. She stood by one of the windows.
“No, I will die in peace, at a good, old age, Em. That is how these things go. Some of us came into this world to live as kings and die the same. Leniency from your god has been bestowed upon us before eternity and nothing can change that. We are a select breed and we must not mix with mere mortals.”
“Don’t fool yourself.”
“I do a good deed. You may not see it now but time will come when you and everyone else will; but to accomplish it, I have done and must still do what needs to be done. I shed no blood that the earth does not require. Even your Christianity is founded on the blood of its saints. No nation or government on earth exists without human sacrifice and before it all ends, I will offer up my own quota as libation to the prince of this earth. This is a burden upon me and no one rests until I accomplish it.”
He felt the wind of her movement as she drove past and through him in fury. He jerked. His essence felt drained and he had himself in heightened breaths.
“My husband…” Emem carried a controlled voice but her eyes were burning infernos as Captain turned to stare into them. “I will repeat myself one last time. If you insist on this coup you’re plotting, and the senseless massacre of innocent souls, you will never see me again.”
“So be it,” he said.
“But one last kiss?”
He took a step forward but was stopped by a bloodspot that appeared on her dress, just above her right breast. Captain stood transfixed as he saw another drop and another and another until her torso was soaked by a full flow, pouring from a gash in her neck. Her eyes remained on him and her mouth hung open as her skin became ashen. There was no animation in her. Captain knew he was staring no longer at an apparition but at a corpse. He took a second step forward but she vanished entirely, leaving no trace of her presence.The temperature of the room shot up and he began to perspire under its heat. He turned back to his bed and retrieved a mobile phone. He dialed the number of a contact in Nigeria. A click indicated his call was picked up.
“Akin, at exactly 0500 hours, release Bloodbath in all thirty-six states.”
“And I think it’s time you dropped the cloth and polished your weapon. It’s going to be bloody from now on.”
He clicked off and rested his back on the bed again.
Ishi was working late into the night. The house was quiet and only the intermittent barking of Lanre’s dogs in the backyard could be heard. Ishi was an old-school architect who enjoyed the traditional feel of pencil against paper once in a while, especially for small jobs. For bigger projects, he went for digital methods. Lanre was his partner and together they had designed many buildings in the Lekki axis. Presently, they were working on a small estate but Lanre was preoccupied and Ishi took it upon himself to complete the work, stretching himself into odd hours. His alarm rang, informing him that another hour had passed. It was now half past three and Ishi was beginning to feel the first signs of sleep dance around his eyes.
He reset the alarm and gave himself an extra hour before he went back to his drawing board. Music from Casting Crowns kept him in a focused mood and afforded him occasion for prayer and meditation as he worked. He was temporarily distracted when he heard a car engine come to a halt outside the house. He concluded his neighbors just returned from one of their late nights out and feared that one of them would still be in a party mood and do their characteristic playing of loud music. There were few regrets in his life; one of them was leasing out the house next door to a bunch of spoilt, university boys. Apart from the loud music, they constantly destroyed the facilities and Ishi always paid from his pocket to fix them. He couldn’t wait for their rent to expire. He planned on letting Kyenpia choose the next new tenants; she had an aptitude for fishing out trouble by just looking into the eyes of its carriers.
The doorbell rang and Ishi’s hands stopped moving. Who would be paying him a visit at this ungodly hour? He stared at the door and wondered if he should go for it as the bell rang a second time. Another door opened and closed somewhere in the house and seconds later, his younger sister, Leah, walked out like a zombie and was heading for the front door when Ishi called her back.
She turned around, gave him a bad eye.”So you’re here, and you let me wake up from sleep.”
“I’m sorry. Go back to bed, Lee.”
The bell rang one more time and Ishi put his pencil behind his ear and went for the door. When he looked through the peephole, he was surprised at whom he found standing at his doorstep. Twisting the key twice, he unlocked the door and opened it.
Inspector Etim strode into the house like he owned it, tugging at the waistband of his pants. Even at that time in the night, he was dressed in a corporate outfit – a safari suit and a pair of shiny shoes.
“Good morning, sir,” Ishi greeted.
The man was a close friend to the family and had helped Ishi a few times with police cases. Etim was one man that made friends across ages. Ishi was one of them.They shook hands and Etim announced his reason for visiting.
“Get dressed and follow me. I need you to meet someone from your past.”
”Sir, is everything okay?” Ishi asked.
“Yes. Everything’s good. Just wear something and meet me in my car outside.”
Ishi still wasn’t convinced all was well. Based on Lanre’s telling, Etim was a good informant for 43, having himself investigated the Cabal for years. Was his presence at the house centered on 43 and the Cabal? Was it okay for him to ask him that?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Etim left the house and Ishi stood a few seconds longer, watching the door. Eventually, he walked into his bedroom and did as he was told, slipping into a pair of discarded jeans he found on his bed. He picked his phone and glasses from his work area in the sitting room and left the house.
Etim’s car was parked just outside the gate and Etim was waiting beside it. The weather was cold; Ishi could feel the hairs on his skin rise over spreading goosebumps. Etim got in and the front passenger door was thrown open to let Ishi in. Ishi stepped into the car. The moment he shut the door, a friendly pat from a hand coming from the backseat tapped him and he turned. Lanre and David were seated behind. They both burst out laughing and Ishi gave them a surprised look.
“They said you weren’t going to go with them if they asked,” Etim explained. “Therefore they made me messenger.”
Ishi was frowning now. “Shey I don tell una not to involve me for dis Cabal issue. Abeg.”
The car started.
“I’m sorry, boy. You’re already involved.”
Ishi turned around and sat straight to strap on his seatbelt.
“So where are we going?” he asked.
“Enjoy the ride.”
Etim pressed a button on his dashboard and Fela’s music broke into their ears as the car left the premises.
“Sir, nice car, by the way,” Ishi said, admiring the new interior of Etim’s Crosstour. It still had the factory-fresh smell.
“Thank you. It’s good to know people in high places o jare.”
* * * * * *
For anyone living in Ogombo, the evening was always the best time of the day; it was the only time the area became alive. Like rats hiding in their holes, the community crawled out at dark to catch up on what they had missed all day. But they didn’t stay up all night. Long before the clock would strike midnight, they would crawl back into their houses and the place would become a dead town, something which was a rare sighting in Lagos.
Sparsely populated with indigenes from nearby Ogun state, one could also find other tribes living freely in Ogombo. It was set around virgin, unploughed forest area which made the environment always cool and breezy at evenings. There was a central place, a general bus stop where all roads led to and where people bought most of their provisions and that was where Etim stopped his vehicle and asked its occupants to alight.
“The road is bad inside,” he said. “The car might get stuck. We walk.”
And walk they did, past many unpainted houses, through shortcuts and dumpy bushy paths, and over crudely-built wooden bridges that stood above drying stagnant water. Finally, they came to a house with construction that had been abandoned a long time ago. Etim led them in through a wide space for a door and into darkness until they burst into a room without even as much as a knock.
Surprisingly, the room had electricity unlike the rest of the house. And surprisingly, the room had an occupant whose hand wielded a gun that was pointed directly at Etim’s face. Upon first glimpse, it was hard to observe that the man behind the gun was blind but Lanre caught it as the man’s hand lowered.
“You came with people.”
His voice was low and strained. His face was in the direction of Etim. Lanre judged him to be about Etim’s age; he also noted that the man had stumps for legs. He was in a wheelchair.
“Boys, meet Victor. Vic, they’re here as promised. Sit, boys.”
The ‘boys’ looked around. There was no place to sit but the floor. The entire room was in shipshape, evident of an inhabitant who suffered from OCD. Lanre sat first and the other two followed.
“I have here Luke’s son, and also Segun Gafar’s son and Samuel’s son.”
It was at the mention of Ishi’s father’s name that Victor showed some reaction. Lanre believed he saw a slight look of disdain pass over Victor’s face briefly.
“Ha. The sons of my enemies.” The conk of Victor’s pistol perfectly picked each of them. “Which one of you goes first?”
Etim pushed his hand down. “No dey play with that thing, abeg.”
Victor wheeled himself backwards, away from the entrance and stopped before his bed.
“Ishi,” Victor said silently and Ishi stared at him. “Your father gorged out my two eyes with his bare fingers because he believed I was sleeping with your mother. But first he let me watch as he chopped off my legs.”
Lanre thought the look on Ishi’s face was classic. He tried hard not to laugh
“So, you’re here to listen to tales told by the moonlight, ehn?” Victor smiled. “All three of you are part of 43?”
“I am not.” Ishi made no attempt to hide his quick dislike for Victor.
“And let me guess who is speaking: Eresoyen?” Victor smiled again. “I was there when you were birthed. There was a Japanese doctor, a lecturer at the teaching hospital. Very handsome, young chap, I must say. He was the one your father should have suspected. Your mother thought too highly of him, if you ask me.”
“I’m not asking.”
“So she named you after him.”
“What’s your point?” Ishi asked.
“Just stating. Though I never heard anything about the Jap again after you were born. Where are my manners? Would anyone like something to drink?”
“No,” Etim replied for all of them.
“Well, I would.”
Victor reached for a keg of palmwine on the floor beside him. He lifted it into the air after unscrewing the cap.
“To the sons of bastards before me and to the unfolding of the wonderful tale that will chill their blood.”
There was absolute silence as he drank. They all gave him audience with their eyes and when he was sated, he left the keg on his laps, tightly screwing the cap.
“The Cabal was put on the map by Igwe, more or less.”
Victor began his tale with less flair than he had announced it.
“You do know he fought in the Second World War, right?”
Ishi looked at David and Lanre and saw that he was the only one not privy to the information. Why on earth did Igwe keep such an accomplishment from his official records?
“He was fourteen years old when he left for the war in 1939 but he never saw it end. He was returned in 1942 after a bullet in his chest almost left him dead. Suffice to say that he found a way to get two girls pregnant at his station of recuperation and that is how your fathers came to be. Luke and Samuel; and of course, Jamila, Luke’s twin. But Igwe was not discharged from the army; he was a favorite of the British soldiers. They kept him and when he got better and was forced by his father to marry both girls he impregnated, he went back to active service. They took him to the Defense Academy in the UK and when he returned, he was popularly known as the Black Britisher. You see, he had developed this accent…”
”Get to the point, Vic,” Etim said gruffly.
“To the point I go!” Victor unscrewed the keg again. “In 1953 at his home in Enugu, one night, two armed men invaded the room where his two sons and first wife slept. He slept in another room, on the floor; because you see, he was a man of war and was used to sleeping on hard floors, rough surfaces, in tents, in forests, in deserts, with the sound of artillery in the air and the smell of death in his nostrils…”
Victor stopped for a drink and Etim sighed impatiently.
“So Igwe was awoken by strange sounds in the night and he drew his rifle and followed the sounds but he was too late. Isoken, that’s your grandmother, Ishi, was shot in the head by the two intruders. But Igwe got there on time before they killed his sons and he killed one of the men and unarmed the other. After a few minutes of torture, the man confessed he was hired by three soldiers, colleagues of Igwe. Their names were Abdulaziz Gafar, John Amaju and Kentoro Abassi.
“A week later, Gafar and Amaju and their wives ended up dead. Kentoro escaped from the country. He would return and become Head of State almost two decades later and seemingly, all bad blood between him and Igwe would be water under bridge but Igwe was just waiting for his moment to strike. Out of guilt, he had already taken Gafar’s and Amaju’s sons, along with an orphan girl, Judith, who lived with the Amajus’, and brought them into his home, adopting all of them. Now, these three children will grow up with his own sons, Luke and Samuel and form an unbreakable bond.”
Victor took another alcohol break and fed off the air in the room. His audience now wanted more of him.
“Igwe got his revenge finally in 1977 when he overthrew Kentoro in a peaceful coup and took power. Before this, he had investigated his enemy closely and found dirty secrets about Kentoro but none as damning as the lovechild he had with a nobody back in Calabar. Emem was the name of that child. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen; she had translucent-like eyes.”
David shifted in his sitting and Victor turned in his direction briefly.
“I was working for the NSS then and was in the security detail of the Eresoyens’ but Igwe called me for what he termed a special assignment. He instructed me to go to former Oruk Anam in Crossriver state then and ensure that I took care of Emem and her mother. I did, for a whole year until Judith contacted me. Don’t ask me how she knew about Emem but she offered me a huge amount of money and asked that I bring the girl to Lagos. I did and Luke raped her. It was the only way he knew he’d be permitted by his father to get married to her. Igwe had no choice; he gave his consent. And he gave more. The oil and gas sector, finance and other key sectors were handed to the top five people that make up what you call the Cabal today.”
“Wow,” David muttered.
“Of course, it was the Nigerian thing he was doing, keeping the wealth of the nation in his family, but he didn’t know he was handing everything to the sons of darkness. His wife, Princess had always been an ambitious bitch and I was not surprised to find that she joined the other five.”
“You said my dad blinded you?” Ishi still held his dislike.
“Yes o.” Victor took a quick gulp. “And maimed me. But it was not all in vain. I really did screw your mother.”
Lanre watched as Ishi’s breathing rose steadily. He prayed Ishi kept still.
“Do you have mental issues?” Ishi asked.
“No, your mother did but nothing a good old loving couldn’t fix.”
Ishi sprang from his position and Etim immediately stood to stop him from moving forward. Victor remained unmoved, knocking back down his palmwine.
“This is why you brought me here?” Ishi demanded of Etim.”
“This is a waste of my time.”
He turned to the door but Victor’s next statement stopped him.
“I’m thinking Leah is my daughter.”
Ishi turned back. “What did you just say?”
“The timing, her age, the circumstances… I think she’s mine.”
Ishi made a move and Lanre stepped in front of him this time.
“Vic, abeg, stop am,” Etim pleaded.
“Don’t bother.” Ishi faced the door again. “I’m leaving.”
“Oh, but you’ve not even heard the juiciest part, Ishi; the part that would make your skin shrivel up, because that man you call your father is the devil impersonated. Ha!” Victor drew a tickled breath. “The notorious Captain is a junior-ranking demon compared to him. So please, do sit and listen, let me tell you who Samuel Eresoyen really is. And also, I’ll throw in, for good measure, what you members of 43 want to know about the Cabal. I’ll tell you what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. But first, I need Ishi to please, stay and let me release this burden off my shoulders. I have carried the secrets of your families for so long. I need to unload the sins of the fathers upon the sons.”
Ishi pushed his hands into his pockets.
Victor let out a sinister smile. “Has anyone here heard of Bloodbath?”