Previously on Biyankavitch…
The Bahagos were on a weekend getaway at Liana Resort. Things were going well until the baby of the house, Jethro, fell into a coughing fit that let him grasping for his life. Bianca’s verdict: He was poisoned. His girlfriend was the top suspect.
Here’s what happened next…
Facts about Jethro’s case.
He didn’t die. But he was almost there. And he could get there any moment. His father had threatened hail and fire on the Bahagos if his son didn’t come out alive. Ola, his girlfriend, was not a killer – in principle. She readily confessed when the back of my hand assaulted her baby face. I didn’t tell anyone in the family that she was responsible for poisoning Jet, because I wouldn’t have been able to get information from her if I did. I knew who was responsible for the attack, and I was going after that person.
But first of all, Idris and Victoria needed to come clean. Tanko too. That was if he finally snapped out of the stupor he had fallen into.
The location was the family house. Debbie, Muna and Polo were at the hospital with Jet. The parents had been forced to come home. Ola was locked somewhere safe, pending Jet’s recovery. I had gotten all I wanted from her at the moment, but her involvement was not easily forgiven. I planned to leave her at Victoria’s mercy when Jet got better.
I entered my parents’ bedroom. Tanko was there with them, in the state I had left him. It was almost 8 p.m. Everyone was tired from the day’s events. Victoria had her injured foot propped up on a pillow. Idris was on the phone. Tanko was still in silent mode.
“I’m about to come out of the closet,” I announced upon entry.
Victoria cast tired eyes on me. Idris informed the person he was speaking with that he would need to continue the conversation at a later time.
“Bianca, today is not a good day to let us know you’re a lesbian,” Victoria said. “Not a good day, sweetheart.”
I took out my hand from behind me and revealed a gun. None of them flinched, but the surprise was palpable. I wasn’t pointing it at them, though.
“Bianca, what is the meaning of this?” Idris demanded.
“Um…it’s a gun, and it’s simply for effect.”
“Have you gone mad?”
I holstered the gun in my waistband. “I work for the Nigerian Intelligence Agency. I’m an intelligence officer. My job is exclusive, but not limited to matters relating to national security. I’ve had to work undercover and as a spy in and outside Nigeria. I have diplomatic access to many countries. My salary is not attractive, but I earn higher than most civil servants in my level. I have been trained to fight and kill, and also to use weapons. You may not want to mess with me. Em…what else? I know more than you people think I know about you. Two of you. And this meeting is so that we can all come clean with each other. So, I have said mine. Oya, over to you, Dad.”
“You’re an intelligence what?” Victoria asked.
“For how long have you been working with the Nigerian Intelligence Agency?”
“Eleven years. Since I turned twenty-one.”
“Good Lord! Bianca! And you never told us?”
“I was not supposed to tell you, and even now, I am breaking the rules. If they find out…”
“I don’t believe you.” Idris was digging holes into me with his eyes. I tugged out my ID from my back pocket. I knew he was going to play the doubt card on me. I had come prepared.
He looked at the badge, and at me, and back at the badge again. “Seems legit,” he muttered as if disappointed that I wasn’t lying. He passed the ID to Victoria.
“Oh, I forgot to add that what happened to Jet today was from the same people who took Tanko. The same people you guys used to work with. Sorry, did I say work? I meant fraternize with. That whole secret cult thing you did back when you were in your twenties and thirties, it’s returned to bite you in the back. Yes, I know all about it.”
“You know nothing, child,” Idris answered.
“Dad, I’m not the Bianca you know. Masks are off and you two are going to be answering all my questions.”
“You must be crazy to come in here and start speaking to your parents like that–”
“Parents that sold me off when I was just eight years old?!”
My tone startled Tanko. He looked at me, head angled in curiosity.
“Repeat that, Yanka.”
“I wasn’t kidnapped. They let me get taken away in exchange for something. But that’s not my problem here today. I want to know what you know about the people that did that thing to Jet and also kidnapped Tanko…”
“Wait, wait, wait Yanka.” Tanko stopped me. He moved to the edge of the dressing stool he sat on. “Dad and Mom, I need to understand something. You guys sold Bianca?”
“Are two of you out of your minds?!” Idris barked. “You do know you’re talking to your parents, right?!”
Tanko rose up. “When will the lies end?! See what happened to Jet today and you’re still lying! I’m fucking tired of you two!”
“Will you sit down?!” Idris roared back. “Sit down, Tanko!”
“Son, please, sit down,” Victoria pleaded. “It’s not come to that. We will explain everything. Just sit down.”
He remained standing.
“I’ll tell you everything. Everyone, relax. We’re not enemies here. We’re family, okay?”
Tanko slumped down on the stool. “We’re listening.”
“Your father and I joined the Acre Society almost forty years ago. We all know what they claim to do on the surface. They are philanthropic, and at the same time a business network of wealthy men who hold influence in the government and private sectors. Your father and I didn’t use to have all this money. In fact, the little we had, we lost it when Idris had to sell everything after I had an accident that almost killed me and had me needing major brain surgery. It was then he took up an offer from a friend and was introduced to the Acre Society. They paid for my surgery and turned our fortune around. Everything about us changed, and it felt good for a while until their demands became unbearable. When we couldn’t meet them, they killed one of your aunts. It was then we decided to go to Captain. Captain took us under his protection, but in return, he took you, Bianca.”
“And you let that happen?” Tanko questioned.
“We couldn’t stop him. She just disappeared a couple of days after she turned eight. We could do nothing, even after we found out he took her. But he promised us that she was fine…”
“Fine?” I sneered. “And you believed him?”
“We were helpless. Captain was untouchable.”
“You’re unbelievable, Mother,” Tanko spat. “Two of you. Unbelievable.”
“And then, Captain, to show that he wanted to be a stench in the noses of the AS founders, launched an attack on five of their heads, killing them all at once, and implicating us. For years, things didn’t go well between us and them, but they could do nothing because of Captain. Bianca, you eventually came home, and your father decided to sever ties with him. He had borne a grudge from the day he found out the man was behind your kidnapping. He had vowed to cut off connections with him, and he did just that. The Acres welcomed us back in, but we were done with them. We kept cordial relations with a few close ones, but it turned out to be a mistake because they eventually split in two and we found ourselves being friends with the weaker half, which was run by the Kentoro-Abassis. This was why we did everything to encourage your sister’s nuptials to Archibong.”
“Was the whole thing arranged? Their marriage, I mean?”
“Yes. It was proposed by his grandfather, and I bought into the idea. Your sister’s ex had such a hold on her and he was a nobody. But Archibong had the name. He only needed to earn it. Muna made him earn it. As for the other sect, they were the ones behind the attack on the Igwes. But somehow, Captain thought, and still thinks we were involved. He believed that we knew about it and didn’t inform him.”
“Did you know about it?”
“No. We had no idea. In fact, we were also a target. We had been invited for the Igwe triple celebrations by Igwe himself, but we’d declined on the basis of our beef with Captain. If we’d been there, we’d have been attacked as well. This was why Tanko was taken not long after. We all thought him dead. We were actually shocked when he returned.”
“Shocked or afraid?”
“Afraid. We knew they would do more.”
“But I asked you about them, Mom. I asked you and you lied to me!” Tanko accused.
“It was to protect you. You wanted to go after them!”
“And I will still go after them. You’re so blind that you cannot see that my returning to work is just a cover. I’ve used the bulk of my time to start tracing them.”
“And have you found anything?” Idris inquired.
“No,” he grumbled. “Not yet.”
“You can’t find them if they don’t want to be found.”
“I can and I have found them,” I said. “All of them. I know their names and their families. But I know that if I start digging I will hardly connect them to the murder attempt on Jet or Tanko’s kidnap. And that’s why I’m going after the hired hand they used to poison Jet.”
“But how did they even poison him?” Victoria asked. “It happened there at that resort. How?”
“The police is investigating,” Idris answered.
“And Leonel has his trained security personnel on it…” Idris assured.
“Ola did it,” I blurted.
“Ola? Who is Ola?” Victoria’s frown got uglier. “Please, please, please, don’t tell me it’s that girl. Please, don’t say…”
“She was only a tool. Someone used her.”
“I said it! The quiet ones are the worst! I said it! Why didn’t anyone listen to me? Same way I said Jet had to go to a private university and no one supported me. He wanted UNILAG and you all agreed! Look at it now! One riffraff girl got into his life just to kill him!”
“She was used. She’s just a poor girl who…”
“Poor girl, my ass! Where is the witch, by the way?”
“In a safe place. She could get killed if we don’t protect her–”
“Protect her?! Did I hear you well, Bibi?!”
“We can’t protect her,” Idris stated.
“We have to. She was forced to do it.”
“She tried to kill my son!”
“Mom, relax. We need to keep her safe for now. She’s not important. The person who sent her is.”
“And who is that person?”
“Bianca, my household is not a country whose national interests you have to protect,” Idris made clear. “I appreciate what you are, and I’m proud of your spy life, but we need to know who that person is.”
“The less you know, the better for all of us. Tanko, do you want to share anything that may help in my investigation? Anything at all from the time of your incarceration?”
He looked like he had something to say, but he withdrew. “Nothing.”
“If no one has anything else to add, then I have to go.”
“Will you be working with the police?” Victoria asked, handing my ID back to me.
“Police? I don’t trust anybody.”
“Better. So, you’re doing this alone?”
“No. I have a team.”
“Are you going to be safe?”
“Mom, I’ve been doing this for eleven years.”
“But this is family. Your life is also in danger.”
I smiled to myself. I knew I was in danger. The assassin sent to finish us off had a personal thing for me.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll keep you updated.”
Tanko stood up.
“Please, be careful.” Idris voice was soft and laced with burden. “When this is over, we’ll have a long talk, DD. I’m sorry for what you went through.”
“This is not the time.”
“I’m sorry, still.”
I followed Tanko out. Once the door closed behind us, he dragged me toward his bedroom door.
“There was a girl at the place I was taken to. A girl…” He was breathing strenuously. “She kept calling your name.”
“They kidnapped her too?”
“No, no. She was one of them. In fact, she was the most sadistic, sickest human being I ever met.” Fear grew in his eyes. “She kept talking about you like she knew you, like you two were lovers or something.”
I leaned on the wall.
“She is chubby.”
“Very. But the things she could do with that body.” I saw shame take over the fear in his eyes.
“Did she do things to you?”
“I can’t talk about it.”
“She had tattoos…”
“And the softest voice like she couldn’t hurt a fly?”
“Yes. She kept talking about you like she knew you intimately. She kept telling me things… She’s sick, Yanka. Very sick in the head.”
She’s a psychopath. One of Captain’s terrible mistakes. An assassin gone rogue. A human turned demon. She was my mistake too. I should have ended her existence when I had the chance.
“She kept saying she’ll come for you and enjoy cutting you in bits.”
“And why didn’t you tell us all these things, Tank?”
“I never remembered them. I’m just remembering. They come and go. Look, my head is messed up. And maybe I ended up liking her because she saved my life. I’d have been dead if she had not spoken up for me.”
He was still having difficulty breathing.
“Tank, are you okay? Your speech is dragging.”
“My head hurts like shit. Like it wants to explode. Fuck. I feel like puking.”
I took out my phone and turned on the flashlight. It was hard to tell in the darkness of the hallway, but with the light I saw clearly that his pupils were dilating.
“You’re about to lose consciousness, Tank.”
“You’re about to pass out. You have to go into your room and lie down while I get help.”
I reached behind him to open his door to let him in, but he fell backwards and hit the floor hard, going unconscious as I had predicted. I didn’t alert the parents. I went downstairs and called one of the bodyguards. He carried him and we were soon on our way to the hospital.
Pero lifted his head off his pillow to respond to the incessant buzzing of his phone. He didn’t know what time it was. He reached for the phone from beneath the blanket. The name on the screen caused a creasing of his brows.
“Sufiat?” he answered the call.
“Good evening, Pero.”
“Good evening. Is everything okay?”
“I’m so sorry to be calling you this late. So sorry.”
He put the phone on speaker to check the time. It was 11.30 p.m. precisely.
“Pero, I’m very sorry, but I have no one to call. I’m in trouble. The police arrested me. It’s been seven hours, and they won’t let me go.”
“What did you do?”
“Pero, please, just come.”
“Where are you? What station?”
“It’s at Anthony. Not far from my house.”
“Um…Just stay put. I’ll get you out of there.”
Pero hung up. He went for a pee and returned to make a phone call to his elder brother who was a highly-placed officer in the police force. His call went unanswered on the first and second attempts. His brother was a heavy sleeper. There was no need bothering him or his wife. Pero slipped into a shirt and pair of shorts. Sufiat was not the type of a friend one allowed spend the night in a police cell.
“Are you going out, sir?” A fresh-faced bodyguard waiting outside the house approached Pero the moment he stepped out.
“Would you want me to accompany you as your driver or tail you behind?”
Pero wanted neither. He hated the intrusion. He detested the Bahagos for this, and was mad at Tsakani for turning his life into some action movie.
Of course, she wasn’t home. She had returned earlier, in good time to put the boys to bed, but got a phone call that Tanko was rushed in for surgery, having suffered an aneurysm. And off she went.
In the short time between her departure and when Pero eventually went to bed, he stewed in frustration. He loved Tsaka, but he wasn’t cut out for a life of murder attempts and bodyguards.
“You can tail me,” he told the bodyguard awaiting his response.
Pero got into his car and began his journey to the other end of Lagos. When he arrived at the police station, he asked the guard to wait outside.
“I can’t do that, sir.”
“It’s a police station.”
“I know sir.”
Pero hated the cockiness in the man’s tone and face.
He entered the police station. Sufiat had been given some bench to sit on behind the counter. Her head was bowed, her right foot tapping on the floor quietly. Pero greeted the policemen at the counter and she lifted her head. He looked her way.
“How are you holding up?”
She nodded, rising to her feet. One of the policemen barked orders at her to remain seated.
“Na because we never throway you inside cell abi?!”
Pero appealed to his calm and asked them what Sufiat had done. According to them, Sufiat owed her landlady a full year’s rent that was long overdue. The woman had her arrested. She was to pay the full amount before she got released. This was a good time for Pero to call his brother again to have the case sorted out, but he chose to fix things himself.
He asked to see the DPO. Behind closed doors, they came to a settlement. The landlady was invited over and her money transferred to her account. She demanded for the extra Sufiat was owing, but the DPO threatened to lock her up if she insisted on being greedy.
“By law, your tenant can stay up to six months after you quit them from your house! Consider the time spent part of the six months.”
“But she must pack out quickly o! Because me no understand person wey go dey smoke anyhow, dey distribute cancer to my tenants!”
The case ended there. Sufiat followed Pero into his car.
“You want to tell me what happened to you?”
She shook her head.
“Okay. Give me directions to your house.”
She stayed silent all through the drive. When Pero stopped the car, she asked him to go home.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Thank you for everything, but I can take it from here.”
“Take what, exactly? Your life which looks like a caricature of what it used to be?”
“And how do you know that?”
“First of all, you can’t even pay your rent. What happened to your job?”
Sufiat opened the door. “Goodnight, Pero.”
Pero went after her, barking orders to the pesky bodyguard to give him some privacy. He followed Sufiat into a path that was flanked by two compounds and ended up in another compound where tight one-room apartments were sardined against each other. Pero was as shocked as he was sad at the sight of things.
Sufiat used to be a neighbor, married to a man who could more than they needed. But he had passed away, just a year before Pero got married to Tsakani. His death shook Sufiat up. Pero was there for her, as a friend and supportive neighbor. He helped change her tires, turn on her generator, and with every other thing her late husband used to handle.
Tsakani wasn’t so comfortable with the relationship Pero had with Sufiat. She never said a word about it, but her silence bore enough weight. She also pressured Pero to get a better house. When they moved away, the connection did not break up immediately. Pero continued to be there for Sufiat until she deliberately cut him off. He hadn’t heard from her in more than a year. He was stunned at the life she now lived.
He entered her one-room apartment. The place smelled of mold and cigarette smoke. Pero had not known her as a smoker. She used to be averse to such things. What had happened to her?
“You’ve now seen my house. You can go.”
“Sufi,” Pero called gently. He took her hand. She pulled away and sat on her mattress.
“Some people were stealing money at work in my department,” she explained. “I was implicated because I signed documents without knowing. I signed off those monies. We all got arrested. I had to sell my car and almost everything to settle what I was accused of stealing. I’ve been struggling since.”
“And you never called me, knowing it would take only a phone call for me to handle your case?”
“I didn’t want to disturb you or make you think that you were paying me for what happened.”
Pero leaned on the door. “What happened has nothing to do with the promises I made to Alhaji on his deathbed. Sufi, I promised to take care of you.”
“And you did. More than you were supposed to.”
“You don’t have to keep referring to what happened between us.”
“It changed everything, Adepero. And I didn’t want you to lose your marriage because of me. That was why I stayed away.”
“My marriage was struggling. If I lost it, you were not going to be responsible. In fact, if my marriage was doing well, we wouldn’t have had that one night together. So, it’s not your fault. Our friendship was not affected by it, and neither was my promise to take care of you. Look at where you’re staying for God’s sake! Look at this place!”
“I don’t have a choice.”
She sounded on the verge of tears. Pero got sadder. Sufiat was once pampered, spoilt by her husband, a man who thought she was the best thing to ever happen to him. He adored her so much that he begged her to delay getting pregnant so that he could spoil her for a little longer, before a child came in-between them.
It was with this same sense of esteem that Pero took over his responsibilities after he passed on. Sufiat had never cared for a flashy lifestyle. She was modest in appearance and was fine with just her basic needs, but Pero had been more than generous. In return, she gave a listening ear and a heart of friendship. She knew about his issues with the Bahagos and the part his family played that gave him and Tsakani endless troubles. She constantly advised him on what to do each time a spat broke out. When he and Tsakani had their worst fight that had Tsakani moving out of the house to stay with the Bahagos for a month, it was in Sufiat that Pero found succor, a situation that pushed them into a night of soothing sex.
Pero regretted it, but not as much as Sufiat did. This was their first time alone together since that night. It was painful for Pero to find out that she was not the same woman he used to know.
“How is Tsaka?” Sufiat asked. “I try chatting with her on Whatsapp now and then but she never responds.”
“They’re good. Look, Sufi… We need to get you out of here. Do me a favor and look around for a decent apartment. Nothing less than half a million a year. Call me and I will check it out, and if I think it’s worth it, I will pay and furnish it.”
“No, thanks. I can take care of myself.”
She pulled off her veil. The temperature in the room was getting hotter. The ceiling fan didn’t look like it was functioning.
“I’ve been applying for jobs. Insha’Allah, I’ll find one soon.”
“Insha’Allah you won’t have to suffer before you find one. Go and search for the house of your choice or I’ll do it for you.”
“I don’t want you to do anything for me, Pero! Don’t!”
“Because you’re reminding me of Alhaji! It’s like I’m having a husband again! A husband that will never be there! A man that belongs to another woman! Do you know how much my heart broke when I woke up the morning after we slept together and you were not there?! Do you know how it felt like I was mourning Alhaji all over again?! Abeg, keep your husband privileges! Me, I don’t want. I’ll be fine. Go back home to your wife!”
“I gave my word to Alhaji and I’ll fulfil it even if I have to tie you and drag you into a comfortable life. You can’t continue like this.”
“Go home, Pero. Just go. Leave me alone.”
“I’ll come back tomorrow. Sleep well.”
She didn’t accompany him out. He returned to his car where he sat in thought. Sufiat had feelings for him, no doubt. But he didn’t feel the same way. All he wanted was to keep his promise to his late friend. Without Alhaji’s connection, he and his partners wouldn’t have had a smooth start of their business. He owed the man more than he could repay. It had nothing to do with Sufiat.
On his way home Pero called Tsakani. Such was her hold on him that even when he was mad at her, he still thought about her.
“You’re awake?” she asked.
“Yes. I can’t sleep. Is Tanko out of surgery?”
“Yeah. He’s fine.”
“So you want me to come and pick you up or…?”
“Don’t stress. I’ll be home in a few hours.”
Pero didn’t know why he did these things to himself. Why he tortured himself so much. He had known what her answer would be before he asked. He knew she wanted to be by Tanko’s side when he woke up. He imagined her soft eyes glistening in tears as Tanko stirred and looked at her. He imagined her fingers locked in his. He imagined…
Pero shook his torturous thoughts away. Australia was somewhere in the back of his mind. In eight days, the job offer would be over. If he took Tsakani away from Tanko, would out of sight be out of mind? Would they be safe from the people that wanted the Bahagos dead?
Pero was tired. He turned on the radio. He felt like he was losing his mind.
It was one of those rare times that Captain was out of the country. He was expected back in two days. In the order of things, I needed his permission to go after the same people he wanted to obliterate. But fuck orders and permissions. I was going to do what I wanted, starting from the person behind Jet’s poisoning. I would then move up the ladder. No rest until my family had peace again.
It was weird how I could sleep like a baby while my house was on fire. But that was what I did. Lanre had taught me this – that whenever my head was in a state near madness, I should seek for clarity by resting it. I had sedated myself with a shot of diazepam after returning from the hospital. I woke up feeling run over, but it was nothing a cold shower and healthy breakfast couldn’t fix. I drove to Kashimu’s. He was in a bad mood. One of those moments it was said that he lost his mind daily. He wouldn’t tell me what angered him, but I found someone in the backyard struggling for life. Kashimu’s clothes were covered in blood.
“I don’t know who ordered the hit on your brother,” he told me, stripping out of his clothes to get under the shower. “I only picked up news that something was maybe going to happen.”
“I want a name, Kash. Just one person in that fucking Acre Society.”
“You have no idea how the Acres run shit. If someone orders a hit, it has no name behind it. They all take responsibility.”
“That means you’re also responsible for what happened to my brother,” I accused.
“I have not reached that level yet. A top Acre has to die, and then elections held before someone like me takes his or her place. And quite frankly, I don’t want to be one of them. I use the AS for business. The only reason I know things is because I have a knack for putting my ear down.”
“But you said you can stop the hit on my family if I become your wife.”
“For you, I’m willing to take out a top Acre. Just to protect you. Say yes and I make that one phone call.”
“And yet this isn’t about feelings?”
Kashimu laughed. The shower had a cooling effect on his temper. Or maybe it was just my presence.
“You think you have the best pussy out there? Or you think it’s your face or body I’m crazy about? Bianca, I could have a whole harem of sex bombs who can murder for fun, if you think that’s my fascination with you.”
“I don’t murder for fun.”
“I want you because I want the Bahago fortune. I’m retiring from my weapons business soon and I’m buying everything off everyone. So, in exchange for your family’s safety, I’ll ask for half of your parents’ empire and you.”
Yeah, it was one of those moments of the day when he went mad.
“And why should I believe that you’re not the one behind the assassination attempt on my brother? You just gave me motive.”
“I’m not a killer. I’m a business man. I hurt people out of revenge. The Bahagos are not in my black book.”
He was of no use to me right now. He was going to keep messing with my head.
“Just say yes, Bianca, and I will drop the entire Acre heads for you.”
He wasn’t lying. I saw it in his eyes. His offer was tempting. But I hated dining with devils.
“I’ll start with the person that ordered the hit.”
“But you told me you didn’t know who it was.”
Like I said, this man wanted to mess my head up. I was done speaking to him.
“You’re leaving?” he asked when I started towards the door.
“You’re a waste of time.”
“Dinner?” he asked.
“Yes. My place.”
I left his house to the hospital. Jet was still comatose but Tanko was awake. The entire family was there, all waiting outside the recovery area. They wouldn’t let anyone in because he was still groggy.
Idris pulled me aside for an unexpected hug.
“You saved your brother’s life,” he said, chin on my head. “I don’t deserve a daughter like you.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I’m sorry for all you went through those eight years you were away. If I could go back and undo the moment I made a deal with Captain…”
“It’s okay, Daddy.”
“I want to ask for specifics. Can you give me details of what Captain put you through?”
“There are things a father is not supposed to know about his daughter.”
“Do you work for him?”
I moved away from my old man’s embrace. “I have to leave.”
“I’ll see you later.”
I was out of the hospital in a flash. Getting into my car, I received a call from Lanre. He was at my house. He wanted to talk.
“I’m on my way.”
Another call came in. It was from a drunken Muna. I put her on speakerphone as I drove.
“You know I love you, right?”
“What’s this about, Mu?”
“It’s about love. Sisterly love. Since we’re all dying in the family, I just want to tell you how much I love you and clear things up with you before you go to the grave.”
“Say what you want to say.”
“I was always jealous of you. Daddy loved you so much before you disappeared. And even more when you came back. Mommy too. She kept telling me how I should try to be like you. You were perfect.”
“I was not.”
“You were. And then you had Archie. The perfect man. Handsome, intelligent, sexy… I wanted what you guys had. I wanted a man who would treat me right.”
“And you got him, but you’re treating him like shit.”
“I have anger issues.”
“Then go for anger management, Munachi. Stop hitting the man you love.”
“The man you love.”
“He’s my friend.”
“Friend with benefits.”
“Okay, we’re not having this talk again. I’m hanging up.”
“Swear that you’re not fucking him.”
“Don’t be stupid, Muna.”
I was losing my patience.
“If you die now, you’ll go down to your grave in guilt, so you better bare it all out. Swear!”
“It’s Munachi Kentoro-Abassi, FYI. But fine, you don’t have to swear. Just leave him for me. He’s the only good thing in my life.”
“Munachi, you’re drunk. You’re not thinking straight. I don’t want your husband. I’m hanging up now because this talk is senseless. Get off alcohol and the drugs you’re taking or I’ll organize an intervention for you.”
“I’m sorry!” She had begun to cry. I so wanted to hang up, but this was my sister. I couldn’t leave her in this state. I stayed on the phone until she stopped crying and went silent.
“I love you, Bibi.”
I couldn’t say it back. “Go and take a cold shower.”
I ended the phone call and got through to Archie.
“Go home and fuck your wife, please, and cuddle her when you’re done. Do what husbands do.”
“Go and perform your husbandly duties, oga.”
“Do you think it’s a good time to walk away from this marriage and damn the consequences?”
“If you dare leave my sister in a broken state…”
“She tried to fight me this morning. I’m not understanding anymore. She wanted me to stay at home and comfort her because, according to her, her two brothers are in the hospital. I refused. She locked the door and started hitting me. Is it me or this chick wants me to beat her badly?”
It wasn’t him. It was her ex. He groomed her to be violent. Taught her how to anger a man to hit her back. She got kicks from it. That was what she wanted from Archie. If he made the mistake of losing his cool, she would destroy him.
“No matter what you do, don’t touch her.”
“Am I mad?”
“How are you though?”
“Good. Are you coming in today?”
“No. It’s busy on my end.”
“No wahala. I’ll rush up with work here and go home.”
We had nothing more to say to each other. I missed his kisses, and the way he cuddled me in his arms selfishly. I needed that at the moment. But priorities, Bianca. Priorities.
I rang off. It took me about some twenty minutes to arrive home. Duru was outside. He informed me that I had company. I entered the house. And there in my living room was Lanre. But he was not alone. The Igwe twins, Leonel and David, were there. And also a man known as Inspector Etim. He was probably in his sixties. He had been pursuing the activities of Captain’s Cabal since the 70’s. If there was anybody who knew the details of Captain’s operations and how it all began, it was him. Together with Lanre and David, they had been part of a team of joint security forces called 43, aimed at bringing the Cabal down. Many members of 43 had been murdered or simply disappeared. Inspector Etim, Lanre and David were three of the five left standing.
“Hello Bianca,” Inspector Etim greeted. He was a jovial looking man who loved wearing short-sleeved safari suits. Toss on an explorer’s hat on his head, chop the lengths of his pants in half and he would fit perfectly in any jungle.
“Inspector, your presence is a pleasant surprise.”
“How are you? The last time I saw you was during your induction at the NIA. How is that corrupt place these days?”
Lanre and I laughed. “We’re trying not to be more corrupt,” I answered.
I extended my greetings to the other guys.
“Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?” I asked.
“We’re good,” Lanre replied.
It was weird being ordered to sit in my own living room, but Lanre was always boss. I did as I was instructed.
“The last time we spoke, I told you that I’d let you know if I wanted to get involved in the business of taking down Kashimu’s operations and that of his brother, Bakare Lamidi. I also told you that if we get into that, we would be opening a can of worms.”
“I didn’t want to do it, but in the light of recent happenings—the attack on your family—I have decided to get myself involved. And since this would mean unearthing cold case files, I thought it wise to bring the people who know what we’re about to get into as much as I do. Qualified men.”
“You’re opening the files again?”
“We’re not only opening them, we’re picking up where we left off.”
“That’s good news.”
“Don’t get too excited,” David said. “We run the risk of ending up with dead trails. But the truth is that these men have never been this sloppy. They’ve left so many crumbs that the whole place is beginning to smell like a bakery.”
“It’s time to take them all down.” Leonel leaned towards me. “This includes your precious Captain.”
I recalled Captain once telling me that his sons would love to see him dead. I guessed he wasn’t lying.
“What do you know about Shai Girl?”
The mention of the name caused my tummy to toss. Shai Girl, whose real name was Shiloh, was the one who made Jet’s girlfriend poison him. The same person Tanko talked about. She was a psychopathic killer. Amoral. Heartless. If she really was the one ordered to finish off my family, there was nothing that would stop her. This was why I was going after her first.
“Captain brought her to the academy four years after I had been there,” I explained. “She was already sick in the head when she was brought. Two nights in and she murdered her handler by slowly sawing her neck with a rusty blade after tying her up. A week later she killed a boy by bashing his head into a rough concrete wall sixteen times because he had stared at her for sixteen minutes. The other kids stopped looking at her after that.”
“But you weren’t afraid of her,” Leonel alleged.
“And she tried to kill you?”
“She came into my room one night, put a pillow over my head and sat on it. She was fat. She almost killed me.”
“And you stabbed her with a pen.”
“Yes. How do you know all of this?”
“Shiloh was my patient. Not that I was ever involved in criminal psychology. She found me. She had come to kill me because she was on some revenge mission to deal with my father. She was obsessed with you. Did you ever have a sexual relationship with her?”
“I’m not into vaginas. What Shiloh feels for me is beyond sex. Yes, she’d fuck me bad given the chance, but she wants to open my skull and eat my brain. That was what she told me. Not once. Not twice.”
“Then why didn’t you murder her? She said Captain gave you orders to do so?”
“Yes. Six years ago. She had gone out of control. He picked me to do the job because I was the only one she trusted.”
“And what happened?”
“I failed. I just couldn’t do it. I beat her till she was unconscious and left her, hoping she would die on her own.”
“But she didn’t. And a year later, she was heading the group of assassins that came after my family. This was before she came to see me and I was able to tame her for two months.”
“Now, she has reappeared again,” Lanre said. “Out for blood. She is not one of the key players we’re after. But if we get her, we’re one step closer to getting everybody. Shiloh is so deep into the soul of the Acre Society that she heads all their kidnapping and killing operations. They have the strongest and most successful human trafficking business in this part of the world. Bakare Lamidi works for them.”
Now, things were making sense. Was Kashimu asking Baka to shut down the business because it made the Lamidis subservient to the Acre Society, knowing fully well how Kashimu hated being bossed around by anyone?
“When people go missing, one of five things happens,” Lanre continued. “They are either sold as sex slaves, and this includes females and males; or used as spiritual sacrifices; or for organ harvesting; or for cannibalism; or lastly, for sport.”
I had heard of the sport part. It was akin to the kind of thing that happened in the era of the gladiators in which people were put against each other to murder themselves for the viewing pleasure of psychotic beasts. Either that or they were hunted down by their predators themselves.
“Shiloh is in charge of everything. Has your brother spoken to you about her?” Lanre asked. “I have a feeling he encountered her.”
I had vowed to protect family. I didn’t want to bring Tanko into this. “Tanko’s head is screwed up. He hardly recalls what happened.”
“We don’t need him,” Inspector Etim stated with the sort of tone only a man of experience had.
“Exactly. We have you.”
It was David who spoke. He was no Leonel. He had a more menacing appearance, fit for the soldier he was. Even Captain did not mess around with him.
“You’ll be bait,” he told me. “Since she already has a thing for you, you’ll get her out of hiding.”
“Can you do that?” Lanre asked.
Could I do that? Of course, I could. But the problem was that they had no idea who Shiloh was. How intelligent she could be. She was always ten steps ahead.
“But if we must get her, we have to stop thinking like us,” Leonel said. “We have to start thinking like her. And good thing, I have her psychological profile. Combined with what we already know about the Acre Society and the intelligence we gather as this goes on, we can get these people.”
“You sound so optimistic,” David told his twin.
“He’s a bloody civilian.” Inspector Etim laughed. Leonel smiled.
“So, guys, are we doing this?” David asked.
“We’re all in,” Leonel replied.
“As your elder in this place, I’ll be in charge.”
Inspector Etim had always been a joker. One that I didn’t mind taking orders from, but at some point, they would all come to realize that I had the propensity to go rogue. Biyankavitch was a loner.
“No paper trail. No digital trail. All phones to be used would be burners. Everything clandestine. This thing we’re about to do does not exist. We did not have this meeting. We did not have any other meeting after this. Understood?”
The elder’s instructions were well-received.
“And no superhero stunt,” Lanre added, eyes on me. “We work as a team.”
David looked at his watch. He had seemed bored from the start. I knew I would have to get used to his passive face. Ironically, I saw some part of myself in him.
The small gathering ended. The men made their exit, leaving Lanre and I alone.
“I mean it, B. No Black Witch stunts.”
I locked the door and pushed him against it. My fingers scratched his chest sensuously. “Yes, sir.”
“Not now, B.”
“But I want you.”
“I have something to do.”
“I just want to thank you for bringing the best men out there to help me with this.” I was kissing his neck as I spoke.
“Bianca…” He was melting in my arms.
“After everything is over, we’ll make that trip to that place with endless beaches.”
He laughed when I sucked on his earlobe. “See scope.”
I was going for his belt when the door behind us shook under the assault of Leonel’s fist.
“Dada, you dey mad abi?!” he shouted.
“I told you I have something to do.” Lanre kissed me. “Tonight?”
Our lips parted and he left the house. After he was gone, I became restless for no reason. Maybe it was because things were going smoother than I had anticipated. I was steps closer to Shiloh and to the Acre Society than I had been hours ago. It seemed all too easy.
I changed my appearance and left the house, headed to where I had Ola locked up for her own safety. If the plan was to bait Shiloh, then I was going to draw out all information I could from Ola. The poor girl had told me that she met Shiloh in school in what looked like a chance meeting. They soon became friends. From friends to lovers. Shiloh had always known how to make the straightest woman bend for her. She also enjoyed taking the long route to accomplishing her deeds. Ola had not been dating Jethro prior to their meeting. It was Shiloh who told her how to catch his attention in school and get into his life. She also convinced her to poison him. But the girl hadn’t known how deadly the poison was. She was fooled into thinking it was something that would knock him out long enough for her to steal his phone and transfer funds to her account.
“But it works only when he eats,” Shiloh had told her. “Spray it in his mouth just before he eats.”
The third thing Shiloh knew how to do was manipulate minds. She was able to get Ola to risk her education and entire life as she knew it, to become a thief and fugitive for a promised better life where she could enjoy the affection of her lesbian lover.
I arrived at the location Ola was kept, having gone there using public transport. It was a slum spread along the banks of a canal separating Monkey Village from Mazamaza in the Abgoju area of Lagos. A straggling marsh settlement built from scrap materials. Buildings were made mostly from bamboo sticks. The stench was overwhelming. Children played in murky waters and on garbage-infested streets.
No one raised a brow at my presence. I had taken on a form like one of them, meandering through the filth to arrive at a shack that was manned by a group of boys smoking marijuana. They hailed me. I had paid them a few times for a couple of dirty jobs. They were loyal, even though they had no idea who I really was.
I was passed a burning joint by one of the guys who handed me the key to the padlock that kept Ola safe in the shack. He assured me that the girl was fine.
I walked up a short ladder to the landing that held the house. I unlocked the door. Ola was sprawled on the floor, butchered in a most gruesome way. In a manner only Shiloh could accomplish. I took the scene in. On the floor, in an arch around her body were words written in her blood.
…until Shiloh comes.
A gaping hole was also in the floor. She had come in from the swamp beneath while the boys sat outside and smoked.
Interesting. She was following me. Time to bait her.