ELYON VILLA/ IGWE’S PRIVATE QUARTERS
The weather was too cold for Igwe but he was determined to take his evening walk. Dressed in warm clothes, he strode out of his bedroom. An armed guard was standing in the sitting room when he came out and Igwe looked him over intolerantly.
“What are you doing here? Where’s Maxwell?”
“He asked me to take his place, Your Excellency.”
“Yes, sir.” Igwe watched him leave before he also made his way out. In the anteroom he could hear voices coming from the entrance area that was manned by security guards. The voices belonged to Maxwell and Jamila, Captain’s twin sister. They didn’t sound happy. Igwe strained his ears to listen to their conversation but he caught nothing much. He waited for a short while before they both walked in. He could see on their faces that they were ready to hide whatever it is they were agonizing over
“What is the problem?” he asked.
“Good evening, Pa.”
Jamila walked to him and hugged him. She had been away for some time. She left her arm around him and fiddled with his thinned, white hair. Igwe could tell that she had lost a bit of weight and it pleased him. Her obesity had always been an issue between them. He was a man too fit for his age, careful with his meals and counted his calories judiciously. Jamila, on the contrary, was a vivacious woman who took life as it came and if food made her happy, she consumed it without restriction. But as different as she was from Igwe, she was his closest and everyone knew that if anything were to happen to her, he wouldn’t last a day.
“How are you, Pa?” she asked.
“Never felt better,” Igwe replied and pecked her cheek before he turned to Maxwell. “What is the problem, Max?”
“It’s nothing,” Jamila replied quickly. “Come on.” She took Igwe’s hand. “I missed our walks. Let’s go on one.”
“Talk to me, Max.” Igwe insisted.
“Pa, I said it’s nothing,” Jamila held on.
“I want to know.” Jamila sighed and gave Maxwell her consent with a nod.
“Ishi’s missing,” Maxwell revealed.
Igwe frowned. “How did that happen?”
“Beats me,” Maxwell replied. “He was alone at home…”
“And Lanre and Leah?”
“Both were out. Ishi’s EPA went on a prolonged bathroom break. He came back just in time to see two guys shoving Ishi into a van. He went after them but lost them.”
“Lost them? How?”
“The van was abandoned on a busy street with no one in it.”
Igwe’s face twitched in annoyance.
“First, keep that useless EPA in holding until we get Dozie back,” he ordered.
“Already done that.”
“Then find Dozie tonight.”
“Working on that, sir.”
“And lastly, double the EPAs for every member of this family.”
“Pa?” Jamila pulled away from Igwe to look into his face. “Executive protection assistants cost double the price of regular bodyguards.”
“I don’t care. Do it, Maxwell.”
“Yes sir,” Maxwell answered and left the room.
“Is there a particular reason for this security upgrade, Pa, apart from Ishi’s kidnapping?” Jamila asked.
“No. Everything’s fine.”
“Not what my sources tell me.”
Jamila held Igwe’s hand as they began a slow walk out of the room.
“All is well, Jamila, and I am glad you are back.”
“Have your sources also told you about the girl who is supposedly pregnant for Leonel?”
Jamila did not reply immediately as they had now gotten to the main entrance of the building. She held her answer until they were out of earshot from the guards.
“Kyenpia is her name, I guess,” Jamila said and clung to Igwe’s arm like a little girl.
“The baby could also be Dozie’s.”
Jamila smiled. “I know.”
“Which of them spoke to you about it?”
“Both of them actually.”
It was no surprise to Igwe. Jamila was the family’s shrink. She held most of their secrets. She was a psychologist, a professor who avoided the public and practiced in a small office in Abuja on the occasion. Her patients ranged from the very rich to the poor whenever she decided to leave family issues to take on her job. Jamila had also been the driving force for Leonel’s choice to study psychology as well. He literally worshipped her and she had taken the place of his mother in his life. He never made major decisions in his life without Jamila’s knowledge but dating Kyenpia for the length of time he did and deciding to have a baby with her had been the exception.
“For the first time, Pa, when I looked into Leo’s eyes when he was speaking about the girl, I felt threatened.” Jamila laughed a tad. “Finally, someone has his heart and not me. But I was happy for him. I had never seen him that way before. He loves her to an obsession. It’s the same look Ishi has but Ishi’s is quiet and confident, like he knows he already has her.”
Igwe stopped walking. “Jamila call Max for me on your phone.”
Jamila brought her phone close to her face and dialed Maxwell. When it began to ring, she passed the phone to Igwe.”
“Max,” Igwe spoke, “Dozie might be with Leonel… I know, trust me. Find him and you’ll find Dozie.”
JACAN’S RESIDENCE/ AKIN’S HOTEL ROOM
Jacan walked into his house with a troubled look in his eyes. Omoayena, who was just coming out from the bedroom looked at him with an expression aimed at masking her guilt. Both of them knew the evening was going to be a turning point in their lives. How they handled what was to come could determine their future.
Jacan looked at Omoayena and fell even deeper for her. On his drive home, he had tried to understand why he loved her so much but he found no answers. She didn’t possess the stunning beauty or any alluring qualities like his exes had but she was not ugly either. In fact, one of his mother’s reasons for not wanting her as a daughter-in-law of choice was that her features did nothing to complement his looks, that she was too masculine for him.
Jacan was tall and Omoayena was only a few inches shorter than he was. For a woman, her bones stood out more than was needed because her skin wrapped about her flesh tightly, making her skinny features lack the lithe, feminine look that he had always loved in women. However, her face held the prize, and Jacan told himself that he could spend eternity just watching her laugh. Her features always magically transformed from plain-looking to dazzling each time her lips parted in a smile. The little diamond studs on her ears would twinkle to brighten her perfectly white teeth and Jacan’s heart will thaw out as he stayed transfixed to the image of her.
But for that moment, Omoayena was not smiling, and he was willing to do anything to see a grin from her thin lips. He was prepared to forget the undue pain she was causing him and just make her fall in love with him again.
“You look tired,” she told him.
“Are the kids asleep?” he asked.
She nodded and they stared at each other for a while.
She avoided his eyes.
“I have something to say…”
He lowered his head. Nervously, she gathered her eyebrows and waited for him to speak.
“I… have a confession to make,” he continued as took his hand away from the door handle he had been gripping. At the sight of the hand, Omoayena gasped.
“I killed a man today,” Jacan confessed.
Omoayena’s knees almost buckled beneath her because she knew instantly what he was talking about.
“I killed…I killed Akin.”
Some Minutes Before
Jacan stood over Akin’s dead body.
All was quiet and calm.
All he heard was the sound of his own heart beating.
A line of cold sweat coursed down his temple.
He smelled it…The cold smell of death.
He tasted it…The metallic taste of blood in the air…
Omoayena stood cold in the living room of their four-bedroom flat, a feeling of dread overwhelming her. She did her best to avoid looking at Jacan’s hand wrapped in a bandage soaked in blood. Something crawled all the way from her bowels to her throat and was pushing its way to her mouth. She couldn’t hold it in as she ran into the guest bathroom and vomited in the washbasin. When she raised her head, she saw Jacan’s reflection in the mirror and turned around to face him.”When were you ever going to tell me?”
He had tears in his eyes; the first time she had ever seen him cry.
“Ten years of marriage and you were sleeping with my colleague and friend and had children by him and you didn’t think I deserved to know?”
Akin leaned on the door, talking to Jacan who slowly but grimly walked round the sordid hotel room. It stank of sex and smoke and the windows were letting little air in. Akin loved places like this; for some weird reason, he was afraid of living in a house all by himself.
“Did you just say no?” Jacan asked and Akin nodded.
With slow but threatening steps, Jacan strode towards him.
“I politely ask you to let my wife be and you say no?”
Akin winced, grinding into his teeth.
“See…that’s the thing. I knew you’d be this difficult. Okay, okay.”
He placed his hand on Jacan’s shoulder.
“Let’s do it this way. You can have the kids; I don’t care about them. I, on the other hand will have Omo.”
He grinned but Jacan head-butted him and he reeled to the floor.
“What didn’t I give you, Omo?” Jacan asked in a quiet voice. Omoayena sat herself on the toilet seat, squeezing her knees while she sobbed.
“In all the years we’ve been married, have I for one day ever raised a hand to touch you? Have I ever cheated on you? Do I refuse your meals or stay out late? Don’t I even cook and help around with the kids?” His voice went undertone. “Or is it that you never loved me in the first place?”
“I did. I…”
A series of irrepressible sobs racked her body as she fought to remain calm.
“I still love you, Jacan.”
“Then why? Why, my darling wife? That is the question I’m asking. Why?”
“Because you were predictable,” Akin took off a blood-stained towel away from his nose and laughed out loud. “And tiresome. Everything is about God! About fidelity and morality and decency… Screw that stuff! Omoayena likes the unpredictable!”
His eyes lit up. “Oh, you should see her when she lets her guard down!” He shivered for effect. “She’s a wild horse let lose, a waterfall of craziness!”
Jacan ground his fist silently.
“A woman does not want to be asked. No! She wants to be taken! And,” he pointed his finger at Jacan but immediately withdrew, “you don’t have that. You don’t have the take!”
He released an uproarious laughter that spurted blood all over Jacan’s face.
“Was it because I was always gentle and polite? You wanted the man you used to know?”
“No, Jake,” Omoayena cried.
“My past is my past, Omoayena. I was a terrible man then but now I’m changed and I’m sorry that I have no apologies for that.”
“Yes,” she spurted with sudden nerve, “you had changed but were you better? You lived in a bubble, in your own world and nobody could connect with you. I didn’t know who you were. You shut me out ─ always!”
“Why did you do that to her? You wanted to protect her from the monster you truly were? Pshaw!” Akin laughed. “How? You’re just the same old product with different packaging. You are still a cold-blooded murderer who bathed in the blood of innocent people. You can’t change that.”
Jacan’s hands ran over an umbrella on the table that stood just below the window in the room that looked out to the entrance of the hotel. He lingered over the umbrella briefly and let it go, then his eyes moved to Akin’s laptop and he stared at it blandly.
“See, my friend,” Akin went on, “Omoayena craves for me. I think that’s all that matters, not trust and definitely not your stupid love.”
“It’s not true! I love you!” Omoayena cried in desperation. “Don’t talk like that! How can you ever question my feelings for you?”
“YOU CHEATED ON ME!”
Jacan was livid. He slammed his fist into the door and it went in, creating a gaping hole.
“Jesus, Jacan!” She gasped as she stood up to walk towards him. But he swiveled round and pointed a bleeding finger at her.
“DON’T!”Jacan roared and lowered his voice immediately. “Don’t call my name. Don’t…” He melted into tears again. Omoayena stretched her hand to touch him but pulled back and remained immobile, not knowing what else to do.
“Look what you’re doing to me.”
He slipped to the floor and looked up at her.
“How could you?” He sniffed.
“And how do I forgive you or ever forgive myself for what I’ve done because of you?”
“It’s not your fault, Jake…”
“Oh, yes it is!”
Akin lifted an unopened bottle of wine from an ice-pail and fished out two ice cubes from beneath it and placed them over his nose, tilting his head backwards.
“You’re to blame. You shouldn’t have left. I told you not to but…”
He sat on the bed and lowered his head to look at Jacan.
“The Cabal was your life, our life…”
“What are you talking about? We left together, you and I, and we changed, Akin. We changed. That was why we became pastors.”
“No, you became a pastor.” Akin wiped off a trickle of blood from his upper lip. “God damn it, you broke my nose.”
“What did you just say? You never left the Cabal? You mean all this time you were still there?”
“Yes! Ten years on and I’m still there!”
“We made a pact to change. Akinlolu!”
“No, you made a pact with God but I owe no allegiance to Him.”
Akin stood up. Jacan could not believe his ears. He turned around to face the window again.
“Why am I even explaining to you? You know how it is, Jake. You leave, they mess you up. I can’t afford to have my life ruined because of a-a-a-a-a senseless decision to try and be a good person! The Cabal gives me all I need. Why would I need to throw that away?”
“Is that what you were doing? Ruining my life? Did Captain send you to sleep with my wife and ruin me?”
Akin was silent. Jacan turned around.
“Answer me! Did he send you?!”
“And if I say no, that I did it all by myself…cause of some old score I wanted to settle? Or just because I found your treasure so irresistible, I could think of nothing else, day and night. I just wanted to taste those lips, to feel those…”
Without pause, Jacan picked the bottle of wine from the ice pail in front of the bed, smashed it into the wall nearest to him and went for Akin’s neck. Shock, sharp pain and the utter fear of death devoured Akin’s face. He reached for his bleeding neck but his eyes never left Jacan’s. Years of friendship and trust disappeared like a pack falling of cards.
Jacan heard the voices of laughter, of jokes told and retold, of fights, of lengthy and senseless arguments about politics, football and women…
Jacan remembered the feeling too well. The terror that filled the face of a dying man was the fear of what was to come in the hereafter. But the fear was also his as he watched his old friend fall to the floor.
He couldn’t reach out to him.
He did not reach out to him.
His own voice coming from his pits, loud and crystal rang out in his head.
He deserves to die. He deserves to die. He deserves to die.
But something inside of him could not let him watch his enemy expire. It was not his feelings stopping him, for he felt disgust for Akin. It was not his reasoning, because he had no forgiving thoughts or even any thoughts at all. It was not his restraint, for he had just snapped. It was a certain power from a certain omniscient source that covered him like a soothing blanket and had made him scratch the thin flesh over Akin’s neck skillfully; any deeper and he would have burst into a major artery.
He had planned a slow death for him, to stand there for a long time, not feeling the pain inflicted by the bottle in his palm or the blood dripping. He had intended to watch Akin die but presently the crushing power over him was repeating over and over in his head like a broken record
“Mercy, mercy, mercy…”
Jacan stood over Akin’s bleeding frame with bent knees. Outside the dimming dusk had covered the west and in no time, the stars would beam up the dark sky like prickly dots. Jacan stood there for a while, knowing that every passing second could never be taken back. Time was precious and so was the worthless soul before him.
All was quiet and calm.
All he heard was the sound of his own heart beating.
A line of cold sweat coursed down his temple.
He smelled it…
The cold smell of death. He tasted it…
The metallic taste of blood in the air…
The only thing he remembered were Akin’s words.
You are still a cold-blooded murderer.
With shaky hands applying pressure to the neck wound, he reached for Akin’s phone and handed it to him.
“Call your boys,” he ordered.
Akin’s unsteady hand took the phone and made a call. When it connected, Jacan grabbed the phone from him.
“Come and get your boss before he dies.”
He flung the phone to the bed and turned to Akin.
“You are dead, you understand? That is what I will tell Omoayena. I don’t want to ever see you near her again.”
He walked out of the hotel room and found his way out of the hotel.