“Has anyone here heard of Bloodbath?”
Lanre mumbled after Victor threw his question. “It was written severally on the planes and stars. What is it?”
Victor scratched his beard. “The question you should ask is who. Who are they?”
He stopped for a drink from his keg. “Is it me or this palmwine tastes like it’s a week old?”
“Victor…” Etim rubbed his eyes. “We’re running out of time.”
“You people think the motives of the Cabal are bad? I can imagine the shame on your faces when you talk about them; the spurn when you think about what your fathers are doing. By all definition, they are ruthless but their motives…their conclusion will serve us well in the end.”
“How can you say that?” David frowned.
“Bloodbath is a militia in the Cabal. There are two others but Bloodbath is the terrorist wing, a militia of men and women who were picked off the streets, from orphanages and homes of the poor. They were taken as little children with no mind of their own and brainwashed over the years. There was no finesse to their training. They are living, breathing robots that only obey the order for mayhem. And when they accomplish what they were trained to do, they’ll all be annihilated. Not one of them will remain.”
“And what have they been trained to do?” Etim asked.
“To cause chaos and hold the country hostage. They are not normal human beings and most of them have been training for thirty years. The scene of carnage they will bring will be nothing anyone has seen here before. And then when the Cabal takes over government, they will put an end to them.”
“When exactly is the coup?”
“Coup?” Victor laughed. “What gave you an idea that there will be a coup?”
“Now I’m getting confused.” David leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. “With all due respect, sir, are you drunk? Because we have been working for years with defectors from the Cabal and we have gathered substantial proof that a coup is on the way. Even Doctor B talked about it in his video recording before he died. Are you now saying we’re wasting our time?”
“To answer your question, allow me look into the matter with clear eyes first.” Victor went for another full round of his wine and held the keg until it emptied.
“Ehen!” He licked his lips in satisfaction and put the keg down beside him. “No, you’re not wasting your time and yes, I am somewhat between drunk and not drunk. You know that grey area in-between?”
“Tipsy?” Lanre helped with a silly smile.
“Vic, come on!” Etim scolded.
“Okay. So what Doctor B has on the Cabal is beyond what you people found.”
Ishi moved away from the wall. “Now, this is really getting confusing. First, you tell this fantastic tale of my grandfather’s past and then delved into my family and the history of the Cabal and now you want to tell me you knew Doctor B too, and about the paper planes? Please, who is feeding you all this information?”
Victor laughed. “It doesn’t matter…”
“It does. To me, to all of us here. If you want us to believe anything you have said and will say, we need to know where you’re getting all this info from.”
“He doesn’t trust me,” Victor said to Etim.
“Neither do I,” David stated.
Victor was tickled. “You don’t want to regret not trusting me because nobody knows the Cabal like I do.”
“You still work for them?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
David sighed. “Are we wasting our time here?”
“I told you this was tales by moonlight. Won’t you be patient enough to hear about the atrocities your fathers committed?”
“To what gain?” Ishi threw out. “I know about my father and the cult he belongs to and the rumors about his involvement in blood rituals! I know! So what else do you want to say? What information do you want to give that will help 43 and their investigation?”
In usual manner, Victor evaded Ishi’s question and continued with his disjointed tale. “Did you people care to decipher the message written in the biggest star you found at Doctor B’s? The origami in the middle? I made that. Clap for me later; genius work of a blind man. But what did the star say?”
“There were just two letters,” Lanre answered. “L-V.”
“And LV means…?” David asked.
Victor wandered off again. “The Cabal will not take over the government by traditional coup. They will begin with Bloodbath that will hold the country ransom for a while. People will die. Lots of people, innocent, poor, helpless people. Then, later on, the rich people in power will begin to die, disappear or come out to confess their atrocities, or start giving away what they have to the Free Nigeria Group, which is headed by Ezra Rahman, who of course you know, sacrificed his wife to get to that position of power. In November, full chaos will erupt. Nigerians will finally have their day and they will gain temporary power through outright rebellion. And finally, the whole of the country will be ground to a halt. No police, no protection, no medical services, no economy, no schools, no facilities, nothing! The country will implode and split into geographical zones and only a few leaders will be left in the central government.”
He brought his tone low for emphasis. “Then the Cabal takes over and Ezra Rahman is made president. If that’s your definition of a coup, then you’re not far from the truth.”
The room fell cold with silence. Only Etim dared speak. “What is LV?”
“Simply means Light Virus. It’s a computer virus Doctor B created to hack into the mainframe of the new computer structure the Cabal will bring in when they take over. The new Nigeria will run digitally. The technological advancement would shock everyone. The country is going to be the new hub for science and technology for all of Africa. All systems that run amok now will be transformed and restored with trained, educated minds that are hungry for innovation. Many companies will be shut down and taken over by the new government to give jobs and create centers for their new industries. The country will rise at a low start and may even run at a loss and but it will kick off full force with time and if the plan goes well, the economy will be amongst the top ten economies in the world before Ezra completes his first four years.”
“So why didn’t they do that when things were still good? It makes no sense to cripple everything to start all over again,” Ishi stated.
“But it is all about power. And mind you, as much as Captain is king here, he still has bosses out there who tell him how to run his business. He is someone’s boy and they have been eating from here as much as he has. Even more. He pays his dues to them. When do you think Nigeria launched its first satellite into space?”
“In 2007,” Lanre answered.
“Wrong. Nigeria launched its first satellite into space in 1986.”
“The year Igwe left office.”
“It was a deal he made with Captain’s friends abroad. To release power, they offered him technology. The satellite was shared by Igwe and the Cabal then. But now the Cabal has more. Why do you think Igwe went into telecoms and has made more money than his competition combined together can ever make?”
“Oh, wow,” David muttered.
“Today, the Cabal’s IT center runs off-radar but it controls a system you and I aren’t aware of. The new digital Nigeria as we speak is in the testing phase and will be ready for launch once Ezra becomes president. Doctor B was one of the people working on it but he created a virus to destroy it. The only problem is that that same virus, once entered into the system, can grind the whole of Nigeria into a halt.”
Lanre leaned back for a flexing of his shoulder muscles. “So they found out about the LV and killed him.”
“No. He was the last alive of the persons that built that system. Every other person working on it was murdered before him. He was only alive that long because of his relationship with Captain. When he saw his end coming, he contacted me with the information he had and together we put everything we knew about the Cabal into a journal and that, my friends, is what Captain is looking for.”
“Doctor B never mentioned any journal in his video. Is it in his house?”
“It’s with me. And I’m not giving it out. I have given you sufficient information already. 43 by now should have done their homework and to some extent, they can achieve their aim but they cannot stop the Cabal. Nobody can. Before long, 43 will be infiltrated and the only way you can stop that from happening is if you break off and become individuals with a single purpose.”
David stared at Victor in suspicion. “Why do I have a feeling that you still work for Captain?”
Victor pulled out a strange expression when he faced David. In a slow pace, the expression turned to anger and he spoke to him with burning venom.
“I worked for Captain and your grandfather and all your fathers. I saw their filth and covered it for them even when it cost me everything I had. When you came in here, I had a good mind to load all their vile on you so that you can feel just a drop of the pain I feel whenever the memory of what they have done comes to haunt me.”
His anger receded a little and his face went cold. “When you go blind, after a while, you lose the memories of things your mind captured while you had your eyesight. The change happens so that your brain doesn’t get confused, so that you accommodate your inner vision and build a new world around it, unlimited by physical sight. After I was blinded, I lost all memory, even the faces of my family, but I never lost the memory of what those heartless, ruthless men deposited in my head. It is engraved in me forever. So do not sit there, young man, and speak to me in that disrespectful manner! You have no idea what my life has been! No idea!”
“Hey, Vic, calm down.” Etim addressed his friend in a measured tone. “David was just doing his job. Me, I’d like to know where this Light Virus is.”
“Don’t bother about it,” Victor replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. “It won’t help you now, until the country is transformed.”
“Maybe it would be our leverage against them if indeed, we cannot stop them.”
Victor tugged at the collar of his T-shirt and straightened it out. He dug his forefinger into an unnoticeable slit on one edge of the collar and pulled out a micro memory card which he flung at Ishi. It fell to the floor; Ishi bent and picked it up.
“Now here are the rules. One, make sure you’re not connected to the internet when you put that card in your system. Two, don’t run the program or it will crash your hard drive. Three, he said you should click on the file named ‘ghost’ and there you will see the original commands for the program. Finally, be warned, the LV has no antivirus. Once it spreads, it will cause havoc to any computer system it comes across, whether it be laptops or phones or even…”
A ringing phone interrupted him. Lanre apologized for the distraction and dug into his pocket. Just as he was about taking his call, David’s phone also went off.
“Hello?” Lanre got up and walked out of the room and at that moment, Etim’s and Victor’s phones became alive as well. Ishi stood in his corner and watched them attending to their callers. They all carried the same expression of people receiving breaking news. The calls did not last long. Etim ended his first.
“A bomb exploded in one of the female hostels in University of Abuja,” he announced.
“What?” Ishi moved away from the wall.
“Jos, Keffi, Kaduna, Makurdi, all of them were attacked too. Just now.”Etim stared into his watch. “It’s past five.”
“The police barracks in Port Harcourt and Uyo too,” David informed them, ending his call as Lanre walked in.
“A bomb just went off in Obalende and another at Berger. Simultaneous attacks. At exactly 5am.”
“Hmmm…the working of a man who keeps a tight regimen.”
Victor rested his chin on his hand, which in turn was resting on his thigh. “It’s Bloodbath, boys. They have begun.”
“What else do they have planned? How do they operate?” Lanre asked in desperation. “We need more information!”
“I have no idea. But don’t waste your time. You cannot stop them.”
“Well, I intend to.” Etim’s voice carried ire as he shook hands with Victor. “Thank you for your time. Boys, we have to leave ASAP.”
David and Lanre also shook hands with Victor and walked out.
“Eresoyen,” Victor called. Ishi stopped.
“You want to know about your mother and I. I sense your questions and anger; it’s thick around you. Relax. I was just trying to get a rise out of you earlier. I’m getting old and bored. Pissing people off and listening to the radio is what entertains me. So, chill, nothing happened between Patricia and I.”
“I loved her but I was just a servant loving his mistress from the futility of his fantasies. She was and still is a good woman, despite her present mental state, and I hold nothing but respect for her.”
He put aside his gun and lifted the cloth used as a covering over his legs. He took out a book made of papers, old and new, of different sizes, put together and held by a shoelace. He passed the book to Ishi.
“This is the journal I was talking about. You were asking how I knew about your family’s secrets. They’re all in there. Notes written by your mother and your aunt, Emem; about actual events, some told to them by their husbands, some they saw for themselves. These are your family secrets and your mom wanted you to know about them before her illness took over. She and Emem believed in a mutual dream they both had about you. They believed you were going to turn things around for your family. Even Igwe believes that.”
“Eresoyen!” Etim called from outside. “Oya o!”
Victor pulled out a sad smile. “They’ll come for me today. I know.”
He smiled longer, stroking his gun.
“I lived a good life and let it be said of me that I held nothing back in my pursuit for good. People should speak the same of you. Tell Etim he was a trusted friend, the best a man could ever have. And when your mother becomes of sound mind, tell her I still love her but don’t tell her I’m dead.”
Ishi didn’t know what to say in response. Etim poked in his head to save him from an uncomfortable farewell.
“Vic, release the boy.”
Ishi turned away and walked out of the room. His movement was slow as he trudged behind the others, not taking in his environment which was now waking to the dawn. Lanre and David were a good distance ahead and Etim was doubling his steps to catch up with them.
Suddenly from the calm of the cool morning, a gunshot rang into the air and all four of them stopped. They turned in the direction of Victor’s residence. Lanre made to go back but Etim raised a hand to stop him.
“It’s no use. He’s dead. He never ever missed a shot. Bloody coward.” Etim gave away no emotions as he turned back to the path ahead.
Ishi remained standing, feeling a cold tremor ripple through his body.
ZORA HOTEL/ IKEJA
Akin stood before the window of his small hotel room and stared into the street below. Rain clouds darkened the horizon, promising a lazy day. Akin had a bottle of beer to his lips and pretended not to hear his phone which lay on the bed, ringing. He held a second phone to his ear as he waited for the person he was dialing to pick his call.
The call connected.
“Akin, I am trying to have my beauty sleep here.”
“I’m sorry, Captain. Just calling to inform you that the work is done.”
“Good. Prepare for the second assault.”
“And now that you’re in town, please do me a favor and stay away from my sister-in-law.”
“Captain, I respect Jacan and I respect his wife too. I would never…”
“Shut the fuck up.”
The call disconnected but Akin maintained his smile.
“Yes, sir,” he said to himself, keeping an observant eye on the street below.
Akin was forty-two years old but he looked younger, thirty-seven maybe. He was dark, of buff build and was a little on the tall side, with greedy eyes and a nasty stare over a constant smile dancing at the right side of his face. Now, just as these stories went, Akin built on this other lifestyle that had nothing to do with what he did for the Cabal. He kept his cover as a charismatic pastor of a local church in Ibadan with a congregation that respected him. They loved their tender-hearted preacher who always stood on the pulpit and spoke passionately and unwaveringly against greed and corruption and wickedness and debauchery and adultery and all the bad things that could lead one to hell. They loved the way he prayed, the way he mended broken homes and how generous he was with his time and wealth. Everybody in House of Shaddai believed Pastor Akin was an angel, and he always proved them right. He was so consumed with his lies that he had even convinced himself that his good works could one day get him into heaven. Therefore he worked out his ticket to eternal life by doing the ‘work of God’, utilizing the advantages his office offered. He received desperate phone calls at odd hours of the night and never turned any of his flock away. He played his cover well. No one suspected a thing, not even his close friend, Jacan, who once was in the Cabal with him.
Jacan, whose real name was Simeon, had defected and in genuine faith, sought God. He had nothing to lose by leaving. Being Igwe’s son meant a better fate awaited him wherever he turned but Jacan wanted the simple life with his wife and three children. He found meaning as a pastor at The Refuge and as a lawyer who advocated for the rights of anyone who needed his help. His generosity often drove his wife to insanity but she accepted him the way he was──the man with calm eyes and a face that held no expression. He had never been known to smile, frown or laugh. But she knew his heart was in the right place.
Jacan was lost in deep sleep when his bedroom door opened. He had worked late the night before and was able to close his eyes only when his kids left to his elder sister’s place earlier in the morning. There was a slight shower outside and the bedroom windows were thrown wide open.
His wife walked in and turned off the ceiling fan. She kept her handbag on the bed and climbed in behind him. He still did not stir. But when she touched him, he jolted up and had his hand at her neck in a tight grip. She wheezed and struggled as his grip loosened around her.
“One day you’ll actually snap my neck,” she told him.
Waking fully, he looked at her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you come in.”
Omoayena studied her husband carefully and saw rings around his eyes and wondered if he slept at all the previous night.
Understanding her thoughts, Jacan explained, “I had some work to do at the villa.”
He threw a lethargic glance at the handmade clock their seven year old son had crafted on the wall behind him.
“As it is, I’m late for another meeting.”
“Let me make breakfast for you.”
“No, Omo, just go to bed. And why are you just coming back?”
“I was on night duty, and I also stood in for a colleague who travelled.”
“Are you crazy?” He held her hand and kissed it. “You are seven months pregnant.”
“Jake, plenty jobless nurses are looking for my type of work.” She sat up. “I can’t afford to slack.”
“What type of hospital is insensitive to pregnant women?”
“Jake, I’m fine,” Omoayena assured him. “I’m a mother of an army of three, remember?”
“What’s today’s date?” he asked her.
“It’s twenty-something. Why are you asking?””
He sauntered into the bathroom; then peeped back into the bedroom. “Are you unhappy in anyway?”
“Unhappy?” She became uneasy. Freeing herself off her jewelry helped her hide her nervousness.
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you unhappy with yourself or with us?”
“Jacan, what type of question is that?”
“I don’t know. You’ve been distant of late, like there’s something bothering you. Is there?”
“Jake, I’m fine. Overworked and pregnant but I’m fine.”
“Yesterday was our anniversary.”
“Oh my God!” She put her hand to her mouth.
“Oh Jake, I forgot. I am so sorry.”
She got up and walked to him. “I’m so sorry. Oh God, how did I forget?”
She hit her head a little and apologized with her eyes.
“I’m usually not crazy about these things but yesterday I wanted to steal you away from the hospital to take you somewhere special. I tried your line so many times but it was switched off. Omo, for you to forget, that’s like you forgetting my birthday. And you don’t forget my birthday or the kids’ birthdays…”
“I am so sorry, Jake.”
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing is going on, honey. I just…”
“You know, I feel something’s not right.”
“What are you talking about, Jacan?”
“I don’t know… I just feel like you’re hiding something…”
He watched her face turn sad and he shrugged, adding, “Just forget what I said. Sorry I asked.”
He went back into the bathroom and closed the door.
“Jake?” Her voice was low; it was not meant for him to hear. She lingered a little and when he didn’t return, she walked out to the living room and straight into the kitchen. There, she turned on the tap and splashed water over her face. Afterwards she took out her phone from her pocket, peeped out to check if she was alone and shut the door behind her.
She dialed a number and waited until a voice answered.
“Pastor Akin, it’s me…”
She paused for a few seconds, looking out the kitchen window.
“Something is wrong with my husband. We need to talk.”