My first lesson in poisons came from Desire. She was only a few years older than the other kids and I that were held in captivity by Captain, yet she already knew so much. Her eyes, when she spoke about the different types of poisons that existed on earth, twinkled. You could tell that there was passion in her about the subject. You could also tell that I was her target for the month-long course.
I was skilled with firearms already. It was easy for me to tell you what handgun you were loading by just listening to it. My nose was also trained to sniff out and differentiate between diverse gunpowder smells. But Captain wanted me to learn the use of poisons for murder. Where to get them, how to make them, how to use them. And Desire was my teacher.
“Arsenic,” she had almost whispered as she kicked off our third lesson that month. She had a manner of speaking in which she sounded like she was whispering.
“Popularly called the King of Poisons, arsenic can kill in a few hours or a few days, but some people prefer months, even years. It’s tasteless, odorless and colorless. Dangerous at a high dose and at a low dose. And we all know that the dose makes the poison.”
That evening, Desire showed me how deadly arsenic worked in high doses, using one of the human lab rats Captain occasionally allowed us to flex our muscles on. Some of such men were soldiers that had outlived their usefulness or just random people he claimed were scum of the earth and needed to be eliminated. For Desire’s arsenic presentation, she had chosen a burly man, kept him in one of the interrogation rooms and fed him a meal that was diluted with a lethal quantity of arsenic.
Subsequently, she and I sat in an observation room and played a game of Scrabble as we waited for the poison to take its course. In two hours he began to writhe and clutch his tummy. A little longer, he was banging at the door and asking to use the restroom. But Desire was deaf to his pleas. She made me watch him die painfully. He puked and stooled on himself, retching on the floor, thrashing about in agony. This took quite a while, considering his size. But eventually, he began to convulse, and not long after, he croaked, bloodshot eyes bulging out.
“That is how you kill a man with arsenic,” she said to me, leaving the observation room. I remained there until the man was taken away and the mess he left behind cleaned out. That evening, I had thought her coldblooded, wondering if I would ever get to that level where I could keep a smile on my face and stay relatively calm while I took another person’s life. I had suffered insomnia for months after killing my rapist. He didn’t haunt me, no. I just wasn’t able to sleep well after that.
But as the years passed, murder became second nature to me. The job of an assassin is mostly a revolting one. There is little grandeur associated with it. I always considered myself a tool of government policy, an executioner in some way. My feelings had to align with the aim of whatever mission I was given. Personal violence never counted, but a sense of moral justification was needed in taking the life of a subject. I was like the soldier, a patriot; willing to lay down my life or someone else’s for my country. Hence, I never joked with my inner conflict. I always ensured that I remained humane and of high character so as to justify my acts.
My latest undertaking left me with some inner turmoil, but it wasn’t of a moral nature. It had to do with timing. I was only about 90% sure that it was okay to go ahead with plans I had been putting together for the duration of two weeks.
Archie was gone on his honeymoon with Muna and I had gotten myself busy. Or rather the Black Witch had been busy. Three dirt bags had been dealt with. Two of them were rapists and the other a wife-beater. Social media was abuzz with the gist. Some fool was claiming they had seen my face and was asking for cash from blogs to release photos. Lanre was worried. Captain had not said a word. I wouldn’t have cared if they had both spoken to me about it. I wasn’t going to stop raiding the streets of garbage. And this was what I was doing at the moment. But it was going to be a stimulating task. Dangerous, somewhat. I was struggling a little with the decision to go on with it. Duru felt I shouldn’t try it.
“You’re going to have enough time to do this,” he posited as I stood in the kitchen, preparing one of my weapons of murder. I had been a science student of some sort for over a week, using the kitchen as my lab, working on different poisons. I needed one that could kill or weaken almost to death, seven or eight men at a go. Poisonous gases were often the best for that type of job, but I was going into a place I had never been in before, about to rescue hostages. I didn’t want anyone but the abductors getting hurt. Gases were best used when it was certain that the enemy alone would get hit by them.
“In short, you will end the whole dirty business when the time comes,” Duru continued. “But not now. Now, you’ll spook them and they will hide and still continue what they’re doing.”
“Did you hear that there are underage girls in that house, Duru? Girls that are going to be taken away and sold as sex slaves to sick racist punks in Europe who would rape and destroy their lives forever, that is if they don’t kill them. You want me to let that happen under my watch?”
I was getting tired of Duru’s uncertainties. I was beginning to believe that he was that 10% of doubt that wouldn’t leave my head.
“How can we even trust this chick? What if she’s lying?”
I dropped my hands from the kitchen table. I turned in Duru’s direction. Half-leaning on the kitchen sink, he straightened up, arms raised in an apology.
“You seem jobless,” I noted.
“No, I’m good…”
“Go and buy me four kegs of palmwine. Freshly tapped. No saccharine.”
The boy dragged his feet out. I returned to the poison and my thoughts. Duru was somewhat right. I didn’t know anything about the girl I had sought out and forced to feed me information about the underground sex slavery business Baka was running. I had gone to her as an investigator, named Karma. The story was that I worked with the Interpol and had been on Baka’s tail. I had shown her recent pictures of her mother and younger ones, explaining how dangerous I could become towards them if she fed me lies.
Her name was Kisi. She was a Ghanaian and one of Baka’s most trusted girlfriends. So trusted that he even let her go about without surveillance, but like most sex slaves, she longed to escape his claws. I had promised her safe passage to anywhere she wanted in Africa and some good money if she parted with information on Baka’s covert activities.
It had taken her more than a week to get back to me, but she returned with juicy gist. Girls from the north and from Cotonou were to be transported out of Nigeria soon. Baka was awaiting confirmation from his business partners in South Africa before he moved them to various places around the world. Until then, they were to be held in a house out of town. It was one of few houses in which he kept his girls. Kisi had been there a good number of times. She gave me a rough description of what it looked like and the number of men that always guarded the place, especially when a fresh batch of girls was brought in.
I was going there tomorrow night. Nothing was stopping me.
Tsakani was running late for work this morning, and so was Pero. Their office clothes were littered across the floor of their bedroom while their bodies lay entangled on the king-sized bed.
This sort of thing had been going on since Muna’s wedding. Their fight had been squashed with a simple apology from Tsakani and a kiss from Pero when he made a surprise appearance at the reception party. The sex had been fiery since then.
“Is it me or are you sexier these days?” Pero asked, cleaning smudges of lipstick off Tsakani’s cheek.
“It’s me,” she answered.
“I agree. Resuming work is making you glow. I just wish you could work elsewhere and not with the Bahagos.”
“Don’t start,” Tsaka replied, kissing his Adam’s apple.
Tsaka pulled away. “I’m really late for work.”
“We could stay in today.” Pero caught her hand.
“Unfortunately, I am not you. I am not the boss of me.”
She picked a green blouse off the floor and wore it. Pero watched as she dressed into her thong, and then a black, fitted skirt. When she went for her jacket, he made a comment about the skirt being too tight.
“As you said, I’m feeling sexier.”
“Maybe we should fight more and I should storm off angrily to my parents more.”
Tsaka giggled. “Maybe.”
She blew a kiss at him, picking her handbag and heels. She hurried out of the house. The maid was standing outside with a frown on a pudgy face.
“What’s the problem?”
“Nothing, ma.” The reply came with a curtsy, but the frown remained. Tsaka didn’t like the girl and she would have done away with her had Victoria not insisted on having her in the house. She had even wanted an armed guard for them.
“You know I can’t let that happen, Mommy,” Tsaka had pointed out respectfully. “What excuse would I give Pero?”
“My grandson is in that house. He’s a Bahago. And you are too.”
To that statement, Tsaka looked at Victoria with tired eyes.
“You’re still my son’s wife.”
“He has a death certificate. I am his widow.”
Victoria laughed. “It’s not such a bad thing having two husbands, you know. Men do it all the time. They have more than one woman always. You can keep both of them.”
Tsaka could have screamed her head out at the woman at that moment. But all she could do was smile and take mouthfuls of her tea as they both sat in the garden for breakfast on the morning of Muna’s wedding. The house was throbbing with activity, but Victoria and Idris had extracted themselves from it to have tea and read the morning’s paper. Tsaka was invited to sit with them. For the most part of the meal, Idris was hid behind a Vanguard.
“Id, what are your thoughts on this?” Victoria asked, glancing on her ringing phone. She was going to ignore the call as she had done with the others.
“It’s all up to the parties involved,” Idris answered, head still behind the paper. “I think a sit-down with both men would be best.”
“I think so too,” Victoria agreed. Tsaka said nothing. She poured herself some more tea and added milk. She felt Victoria’s eyes on her.
“You’re going to tell Pero about Tanko, right?”
Tsaka looked up.
“She has to,” Idris said. Tsaka felt another ton of pressure being dumped on her, adding to the stress she was already feeling over the matter.
“I will,” she answered the parents.
“Do it soon, hon. But no pressure.”
Pero was yet to get the information about Tanko. Tsaka had sought ways to tell him, but she had held back at each occasion. They were in a happy place presently. She didn’t want to spoil it.
But her mind couldn’t leave Tanko. She spent a good part of her day thinking about him, reminiscing especially about the surprise kiss they had shared on that morning of Muna’s wedding. She had entered his room when she saw him struggling with his bowtie.
“You’ve always been a klutz with this,” she told him, shaking her head. “Let me help you.”
Tanko’s hands dropped at the sight of her. He gazed like one falling in love for the first time.
“You haven’t aged one bit, Tsaka. You’re still as beautiful as the first time I saw you.”
“Stop.” She stood before him and stretched to take both ends of his bowtie. Silence followed. The fragrance of his perfume was overwhelming. It was she who had picked it for him when she went shopping. She had had the choice to pick a different product, but she chose the only one she’d always known him with, and now she was struggling with keeping away warm memories of their years together.
“There.” She straightened out the bowtie.
And that was when the kiss came. His hand took her waist and the next thing she felt was his lips on hers. He didn’t force his way through. He breathed her in and sighed. It was she who opened her mouth to let him in. The kiss brought on raw emotions, filled with tender recollections. His taste hadn’t changed; neither did the way in which he tenderly caressed her mouth with him. Desire was stirred too. A fire began to burn that Tsaka didn’t know still existed, bringing their bodies together.
“Gosh, I missed you,” Tanko whispered. “You were the only thing that kept me going.”
“We shouldn’t be doing this.”
Tanko silenced her with a second kiss that was hungrier than the first. Tsaka kept wondering afterwards if she would have been able to stop herself had Tanko picked her off the floor to the bed. Their son barging in had been her savior. It was perfect timing.
Throughout the wedding, Tanko stole glances at her. Sometimes he sent her a text. And there was that one time he had sent their son with a handwritten note and the boy had mistakenly delivered it to Victoria. The woman then passed it on to her, smiling cryptically.
Tsaka came to the decision to stay away from Tanko after that, refusing to respond to his calls and messages as well. He was a threat to her marriage. The plan was to keep him as far away from her as possible. But the plan seemed not to be working at present. She had just walked into her office and found Tanko spread out on her couch.
“You’re late for work.”
She took in his frame. He was in a pair of jeans and a Bahago Mills t-shirt. She was beginning to forget that he used to be overweight.
“What are you doing here?” Tsaka asked, dumping her handbag on her desk and reaching for her laptop to turn it on.
“I work here.”
“In my office?”
“I’m back to take over my company.”
Tsaka paused. “You’re back?”
“You heard right.”
“And what happens to Polo?”
“We can run it together. However, everyone thinks that I have missed a lot and so I should keep abreast with what has been happening, the latest technology, our new clients and all. I’ll be having a month-long update on everything. Today, I start with your department.”
“Tanko…” Tsaka protested. He sprang to a sitting position.
“I assure you that this would be strictly professional. You know how I take business seriously.”
“And your health?”
“The doctor recommended these spectacles for me,” he replied, touching his medicated glasses. “You like? They are dark enough to hide my missing eye.”
She thought he looked distractingly handsome, but she wasn’t going to tell him that.
“I was actually referring to that brain surgery you’re supposed to have. And maybe the sessions with a psychologist you importantly need to see?”
“I’m fine, Tsaka.”
“Well, I’m not fine with your fine. You need to have your entire self back to normal.”
“I can never get back to normal. Normal would mean you leaving your assistant husband and bringing our son back to the house we shared and remaining as my wife.”
“You know that can’t happen.”
“Good. Let me focus on my company, then.” He stood up. “The entire senior staff in this department is having a meeting with me in Boardroom C. Don’t be late.”
As he walked past, he slipped a finger into her palm briefly. “Nice skirt. Fits like a glove.”
Again the perfume, again the rush of memories. When he left, Tsaka sat in the visitor’s chair and exhaled. This was going to be harder than she thought.
“The traffic on the Island is terrible today. But I need to see you.”
“When did you get back in?”
“And where are you now?”
“In some house, somewhere in Eleko. I need to see you, Bianca.”
There was no urgency in his tone. He sounded rather authoritative, like he already owned me. I was getting used to this. Kashimu was always a man in control.
“I’m at work, Kash.”
“This is noon. I don’t think there’s anyone there right now. Besides, you’re the boss.”
“I already made plans for today.”
“A car is waiting outside.”
I peeped out from my window. An alien SUV was parked outside with the license plate that read KASH 5.
“No need to wear something nice. Come as you are.”
The line disconnected. I almost swore under my breath. I didn’t want to be with him. Not this evening when I was piecing together plans to move in on his brother’s operations tomorrow. I already had everything planned. If I got disrupted, I doubted that I was going to get another chance to save Kisi. She was at the brink of doing something foolish like taking her life or trying to escape. If she attempted the latter, Baka would find and murder her.
Nevertheless, I picked my phone and made my exit. In Kashimu’s SUV, I sent a message to Duru, giving him instructions on the task for the night.
I was taken to a helipad just as a heavy downpour began. We flew to Eleko, to an estate owned by Kashimu. I had found out all about his properties around the country when I was first assigned to him. He had a lot of them. Some of them known to be owned by him, while the others were under dummy identities. This was one of them. Not far from the estate, the Igwe family villa, famous, enormous and imposing, stood.
Kashimu’s personal assistant was waiting with an umbrella when my feet hit the ground. She came towards me with a smile. She led me into a car that transported us to one of the houses in the estate. It didn’t stand out from the others, which was not a surprising thing to me when I got a glimpse of what it looked like on the outside. I had assumed that like his house in the other end of Lagos, he would keep this unassuming, but I got quite a shock when I walked in and discovered that there was an entire world in there. The place was actually grander than it looked, with a modern, futuristic theme. Even the obsessive collection of paintings seemed inspired by the future.
Kashimu came to me, bearing a sweet smile I was beginning to like. He smelled like he had just stepped out of the shower. Droplets of water hung in his goatee. He took my hand and gave it a kiss before tugging towards what he called his personal wing.
“I come here to get away when I’ve worked too hard.”
“Selling weapons to terrorists that kill people, you mean?”
He laughed, grasping my hand tighter as we walked down a quiet corridor with diffuse lighting. We entered a suite that had a parlor, a bedroom and a kitchenette.
“Don’t let the setting fool you. I don’t cook,” he stated. “But I’m guessing you do?”
“Did you bring me here to have you cook for you?”
“Something like that.” His eyes were on me, taking in every detail. I could tell, with the way they would not leave me, that he liked what he saw. I was wearing nothing but skinny jeans and a t-shirt that had its sleeves folded. These days I put little effort to my appearance, but everyone seemed to think otherwise. They had no idea that some mornings I didn’t feel like leaving my bed after battling with thoughts of Archie.
“First, we should get you out of these clothes,” Kashimu said. When he saw the silent protest in my eyes, he added, “You seem to have been hit by the rain.”
“Just a few drops.”
“I bought you clothes. Lingerie too.”
I laughed. “Lingerie. How did you guess my size?”
“You’re not the only one who does a little digging. Come.”
I was taken into a closet that had an entire rack dedicated to the clothes he had gotten for me. I removed my hand from his.
“What’s this about, Kash?”
He leaned on the door, hands in his pockets.
“So I was in my suite at the Marriott in Stockholm, watching some documentary on TV, waiting for my nine o’clock appointment when it occurred to me that the world has been structured in such a way that I can have my cake and eat it. I can be Kashimu, the businessman on one side, and Kashimu the loving husband and father on the other. I can actually be like everyone else, have kids and live a clean life. Something good can truly come out of this empty life I’m living.”
I didn’t know what got into me when he said those words, but it was something ticklish or amusing, and I found myself laughing. He looked at me questioningly at first and then joined me in laughter after I paused, apologized and continued.
“I know, right?” His laughter went down, and I looked at him. At that trivial moment, he really felt like a normal person to me, like he wasn’t the same guy responsible for the deaths of thousands across the continent.
I looked away and at the clothes and shoes and lingerie that were all mine. “I’m guessing I’m somewhere in this dream world of yours?”
“Dream? We can make it happen, Bianca. Don’t you want to have kids and a home?”
“I don’t know the answer to that.”
“Well, I do.”
I felt his hand on my waist from behind. It was masculine and strange to me, yet bizarrely soothing. When I turned, I found him too close for comfort. Yet, I didn’t move away. He took something out of his pocket and placed in my other hand. When I lifted it, I found a box.
“Please, don’t do this,” I told him.
“Marry me, Bianca.”
I took that much needed step backwards. “You’re not in love with me, are you?”
He looked confused. “Love? Who said anything about love? Bianca, my proposal is not from a fuzzy heart or a head coasting in the clouds. This is business. You’re from a prestigious family and I’m a man of means. We have a lot to gain from each other.”
I placed the box on his chest, moving farther away. “No.”
“Think about the beautiful children we’ll have and the life we’ll give them. Think about how both families can profit from each other.”
“You’re a criminal, Kash, and I say that in the most respectable way. My father would not accept you as a son-in-law.”
“Your father is not exactly a saint himself. You alluded to that fact the other day.”
“My dad asides, I don’t want to get married right now. Marriage is the last thing on my mind.”
“You want a man you’ll love?”
“Or the one that’ll love you?”
“No. And stop asking these questions.”
“I just want to know you better. If we’re going to be dating, I deserve to know who I’m in bed with.”
“First, there is no bed we’re getting in. Second, I’m your girlfriend only because we are in some sort of deal where I fool my bosses and you give me information that can get them off your back.”
“So your answer is no?”
He laughed, not like a man who had just been turned down, but like one who was confident of his position in my life.
“The clothes are still yours.” He pointed. “I know your daddy’s rich and nothing I do can impress you, but you can’t fault a man for trying…”
“I’ll pick something,” I said, walking to the rack of designer outfits. I dithered, to give off the impression that I was a typical female who had the basic struggle of picking what to wear. I settled for a beach dress.
“I’ll be waiting in the kitchen with lunch,” he announced.
“Wait.” I hugged the dress to my body. It was unwise to let him have his guard up against me since he had come as far as proposing. I didn’t know his motives, other than what he had told me, but I was fine with compromising a little to achieve more. In the end, Captain wanted him eliminated. It wasn’t a job one could do from the outside. I needed to gain his trust.
“Maybe I was a bit hasty with the sex part. I can’t deny the chemistry between us, and I’m thinking we can try. I’m not a prude.”
Kash showed a wink in his eye. “That works.”
He walked away and I heard the door close. I indulged in a shower, and wore the beach dress without underwear. Maybe I really wanted a compromise. Maybe I needed the touch of a man so badly. I didn’t care which.
“You look stimulating,” Kashimu commented when I joined him in the kitchen. He had spaghetti bolognaise waiting and an assortment of meats in a bowl of oily stew.
“Forgive the Yoruba side of me,” he said. I smiled. “I can’t do without the meat.”
We ate and enjoyed the harshness of locally made beer, brewed by his cook as we conversed about a myriad of things. I probed into his criminal life, but he wouldn’t budge. He was a guarded man and many other things in-between. Things that didn’t come off as badly as he had been portrayed or my research had revealed. But I was not fooled. I was certain Kashimu had no heart behind the easy laughter and refined airs.
We smoked Cuban cigars later in the parlor as the sun set behind us. He didn’t bring up the marriage proposal a second time, but spoke about the numerous business opportunities both of us could come up with if we teamed up. He was attracted to the Bahago wealth. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t crazy about it.
“You’re a spoiled child, though,” he concluded.
“Yes, you.” His eyes were dancing over my lips. They had been doing so since we settled for cigars.
“I am not.”
“That reminds me. I was looking into your past and discovered you disappeared from radar for about eight years when you were a kid. Where did you go?”
“I went to live with an aunt.”
“Oh. Just you?”
I shrugged. “Daddy’s decision. Family issues.”
That was the lie the Bahago family told each time someone brought up the story of my disappearance. The lie dug so deep it checked out if anyone wanted to pursue it to the source. My dad had a sister that lived in Ghana who owned a school. There were records of my time spent there.
“I grew up on the streets,” Kashimu revealed. “You already know that.”
“And you engaged in all manner of misdemeanor.”
“Not like I had a chance. Your environment, to a great extent, defines you.”
“But you’re no longer on the streets.”
“And I no longer engage in petty crime.”
I shook my head in a smile. His eyes continued their dance on my lips. However, nothing happened between us at night. He got a phone call and disappeared until the early hours of the morning. While he was away, I allowed myself the luxury of lazing about and watching television. When Kash returned, he found me awake on a sofa, my eyes still glued to the television.
“Don’t you sleep?”
He bent over me and I offered my lips. His were cold against mine. We kissed quietly at first, and then impatiently. The sex that followed in the bedroom wasn’t the best I ever had, but he scored high for performance, there at the top with the notable men I had been with.
We didn’t cuddle afterwards. Another phone call took him away. But he had me in the bathroom and we both showered subsequently. In the closet, he picked a corporate outfit while I settled for a denim on denim.
“I’m sorry that I have to go away like this.”
“It’s fine,” I answered.
“I’d be glad if we could do this again during the weekend. I’ll clear my schedule for you.” He fixed on a pair of cufflinks. I slipped into five-inch sandals. He was dressed before I was done, and waited while I did my hair. He looked good in a suit but I didn’t tell him that. In the drive back to town, I endured the long phone calls he engaged in. He dropped me at the gym where my car was waiting. When he went for my lips, I gave him my cheek. It made him pause a little before he showed me his cutest smile.
“Weekend?” he asked. I nodded. When I put my feet out of the car, he pulled me back.
“Don’t fuck any guy outside. I get extremely jealous.”
I got into my car as soon as I was done and drove home. Duru was playing a computer game when I got in. He paused the game, looked at me and pushed my work phone towards me.
“Your Kisi chick had been calling. She’s freaking out.”
I picked the phone and saw the numerous missed calls from the burner cell phone I had given Kisi. I returned her calls.
“Where have you been?” she asked when she heard my voice. “That your boy is so rude.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I was busy. Work called. What’s up?”
“Karma, I’m scared.”
“It’s Baka. I think he senses something is up. Very early this morning he told me to pack my things that we are going away for a vacation.”
“Baka is not the type of guy who goes on vacations, Karma. I’m really scared. He keeps looking at me somehow.”
“Relax. I don’t think he senses anything.”
“He does. I need to leave this place now.”
“No, you can’t. If you do and it turns out that he’s actually suspicious, then you’ll just be playing into his trap and trust me, he’ll be tailing.”
“So am I supposed to follow him on this nonsense vacation?”
I took off my sandals.
“You promised me that you’ll take me away from here and make sure nothing happens to me.”
“If your information turns out true.”
“You’re saying something different now o. Hmmm…”
“We had a deal.”
“I am not lying to you! The house is there! The girls are there! You promised me! If you don’t keep your word, I’ll just go and tell him everything and save myself!”
I swore silently, clenching my teeth. The girl was scared to death and volatile. She could erupt any moment and blow our whole operation up. I needed to do something about her soon.
“Where are you right now?”
“On my way to my friend’s place. I just left the house.”
“Where exactly are you?”
“Close to Lateef Jakande, Agidingbi.”
My head went into fast mode thinking as I hurried out to the living room. “Hey, pull out Kisi’s details,” I whispered to Duru. “Send them to Dada.”
Dada was Lanre. He once bore dreadlocks that fell to his back. The name had stuck since then.
Duru, always ready for work, picked a tab situated beside a handgun on the couch he sat on and did as I ordered. I could see some satisfaction on his face at the mention of Lanre. I didn’t want to bring Lanre in, but he was the only one I knew who could pull off anything on short notice.
“Kisi, I’m with you,” I returned to Kisi. “Is there a restaurant or fast foods near you?”
“Park the car and get inside there and stay there until you get my call. If Baka calls you, tell him you’re held up in traffic.”
“After that, what?”
“Can you do what I told you to do first? If you blow this up, your family is in danger.” My tone had become menacing.
“I’ll call you. But first get into the nearest food joint and call me back once you do.”
I hung up and dialed Lanre’s number.
“I got Duru’s message,” he said. “What’s going on?”
“It’s not a good time to explain, but I need you to stage something for me. I need the lady in that file to get considerably hurt and taken to a hospital.”
“You can’t tell me why?”
“She’s Baka’s girlfriend.”
“I know, and I need her hurt enough to be admitted. Do something about it, please. I’ll send you her location when I hang up, but presently she’s at Lateef Jakande, Ikeja.”
“Alright. I’ll send someone.”
“Whatever it is you’re up to, I trust you. Just don’t get hurt.”
I went off the phone and waited for Kisi’s call. It came in immediately.
“Okay. I’m in Mega Chicken,” she informed me.
“Order something. Act normal. What are you wearing?”
“A black jumpsuit.”
“Braids. Deep red. Long ones.”
I hung up, waiting for Lanre’s call. It came a short while after.
“My boy is there. He’ll talk to you from now on.”
He went off the line and his boy got through to me.
“The subject is wearing a black jumpsuit and has long, red braids,” I informed him. “She drives a black Camry. She will step out of Mega Chicken now. Wait for her to leave the parking lot before you do anything.”
The line went dead. I contacted Kisi again. “Leave the restaurant.”
“Okay? Then what?”
“Somebody is waiting to take you to a safe house.”
I could hear relief in her tone. She had no idea what was coming for her. When I disconnected the line, I sat and watched Duru’s game until Lanre’s guy called me again.
I heard the tone of an incoming call. When I looked, I saw Kisi’s number beeping on my screen. I switched to her line.
“Karma!” she gasped. “I just got stabbed.”
“Stabbed?” I feigned surprise.
“Yes,” she moaned. I heard voices of strangers from her end. Someone was asking her if she was okay. Another announced that she was bleeding. “And they robbed me. Aaaah! They took my bag. I didn’t see your people o! Hayy! Baka wants to kill me!”
“Are you in the car?”
“Remain there. My people will come and get you to a hospital. Don’t open the door for anyone.”
“The door is already open.”
“Stay there. And don’t give this phone to anybody. Stick to it.”
Lanre was trying to get through. I rang off and took his call.
“It’s done,” he said. “Unsuspected louts jumped the subject as she drove out of the premises, robbed and stabbed her. Nothing fatal, but enough to keep her in the hospital a day or two. A kind lady with short hair and glasses will get her to the nearest hospital ASAP.”
I breathed out. “Thank you.”
When he was off the line, I called Kisi one last time. “Don’t contact Baka. Hand the phone to the person that takes you to the hospital.”
“One woman is here. She’s offering to drive me to the hospital.”
“She has short hair and glasses?”
“Let her take you. She’s a doctor.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
“I’ll call after you’ve been admitted.”
I could rest easy now. Kisi was handled. It was time to conclude on plans for the night.
The guard heard the tap on the pedestrian gate. It was timid. He became alert. He wasn’t expecting anyone. The boss wasn’t coming tonight. He had called earlier to inform the team that he wasn’t dropping in today. Hence the guard clutched his assault rifle, fingers ready on the trigger.
Another timid knock sounded. He unbolted the gate and peeped out.
No car. No bike. Nothing in sight except a teenage girl with a basin on her head that held plastic bottles of palmwine. He looked past her and spanned the distance. How had she come all the way from the nearest civilization?
“Uncle, you wan buy palmy?” She had a strong accent. She sounded like she was from one of the riverine areas of the country. “Na fresh one. My unku tap am today-today.”
The man regarded the girl, but not suspiciously. He was curious.
“How you take waka come here?”
“My house no far. I dey stay for dia.” She pointed into the distance. He followed her finger and all he saw was a grove of palm trees and darkness. He also picked out smoke rising into the air. He could swear that it was his first time noticing anything remotely-related to life there. It had been them this whole time, and the house they lived in that stood in the middle of nowhere.
“Make I giff you make you test?” the girl asked. “Fery sweet. The guard’s mouth watered at the thought of tasting the palmwine.
She let down the basin, picked one of the bottles of palmwine and poured some into a plastic cup. The guard licked his lips before downing the drink.
“E sweet ba?” The girl giggled. The man nodded.
“Give me one bottle. How much?”
“Ah! E too cost o. No be hundred naira?”
“Na hundred naira we dey buy am o.”
“Oya brink one-fifty.”
“Give me two.”
She passed two bottles of plamwine to him. When he handed her a five hundred naira note, she made a face. “I no get change. You fit carry another one, make I giff you fifty?”
The guard retreated into the house and soon returned with a friend, a taller one.
“Give this my brother make him taste.”
The girl did as she was instructed. Soon she was selling off two more bottles. The second man went in and came back with two more men. She was then called into the compound where three other guards were smoking marijuana and listening to the radio. Her palmwine was heartily welcome. In no time, her basin was empty and she was asked if she could get more.
“Oya, dey go nau.”
The girl hurried off, counting her profit with a smile on her face. It was the last that was seen of her that evening. A couple of hours after she left, the men began to have stomach troubles. There were bouts of vomiting, diarrhea and general dizziness. They were smart to blame it on the palmwine. One of them explained that some palmwine tappers added raw corn paste used in making pap to give their wine volume. But he went on to assure his colleagues that once they had purged out the substance, they would feel better.
This was not the case, however, as time passed. One of the men began to puke out blood, and it was decided that they needed to call someone in town for help as they had no access to medical aid. They were just done with the phone call to a colleague when the guard manning the gate thought he picked out the sound of someone knocking.
Clutching his tummy and fighting the vertigo that was tormenting his body, he went towards the pedestrian gate. The moment he opened it, a bullet hit his forehead and he fell backwards, landing hard on the ground. The sound of the gunshot drew two of his afflicted friends out. They emerged from the house, rifles ready for action. But the dark, hooded figure that stepped into the compound wielding a Glock 19 was fast. She had both men down in seconds.
She clutched the weapon in her hand closely and took measured steps into the house. Earlier when she had come and sold them palmwine, she had counted seven men. Three were dead. Four more to go.
Spread out on an old couch in the living room she had just entered was another guard. He was the smallest of the lot. She remembered him as the only one who had had eyes for her earlier. He seemed lethally taken by the poison, blood sipping out of his mouth. The bullet she put in him eased his struggles. Wide eyes stared back at her as he breathed his last.
Another guard ran out, but she was fast with him too. Five were gone now. She checked the magazine of her gun even though she knew it was still loaded. She didn’t want any surprises.
There were three doors leading into other rooms in the house. One on her left and another adjacent to it. The third opened to a kitchen where she found a woman who was wearing a burqa shivering. She motioned to her to be quiet as she aimed for the door on the left.
A sudden sound from the adjacent door told her someone was hiding in there. She waited, weapon ready, but it was the unexpected presence of someone else coming through the front door that got her attention. She made an instant turn to find a man pointing a rifle at her.
Multiple shots rang out from her gun and the man’s. He dropped to the floor, still shooting, just as she heard the instruction from a voice behind her.
“Drop your gun.”
The Black Witch wasn’t known to heed to orders. Her left hand, swift as lightning, assaulted the person behind her with a dagger seconds before his body was riddled with two bullets.
All seven men were dead. Still she took cautious steps towards the kitchen, to the woman in a burqa.
“Relax. I’m here to save you. Are there any other men?”
The woman shook her head.
The Black Witch remained on the side of caution, still, ensuring that her eyes were on all sides. She suspected the men might have called for backup. She needed to be fast.
“Where are the girls?”
The lady pointed a finger at the door to the one that was now to her right.
“Stay here,” the Black Witch gesticulated with her hand as if speaking to someone who was deaf. She tried the door the last man she had killed emerged from. It opened up to an empty room that led to another room where guns and clothes were kept. She figured the men had bunked here. Satisfied that both rooms held no threat, she stepped out and tried the second door where the girls were held, but found it locked. Figuring it was a flimsy lock, she kicked the door in.
Girls ranging from the ages of what she guessed was twelve or thirteen years to late teenage years were hurdled in a corner, terrified.
“Relax, girls. I’m here to take you home.” She tapped a Bluetooth earpiece on her left ear. “All clear. Are you here yet?”
A voice on the line responded.
“Ten girls exactly,” the Black Witch said. “And an older woman. Eleven of them.”
The voice replied again as the Black Witch gestured to the girls to rise up. They obeyed her order. She led them out to the living room in a straight line and out the house.
A black van was parked outside with a man standing beside it. The girls and the older lady were harried into the back of the van. The man got in behind the wheel.
“Go,” the Black Witch instructed.
“Aren’t you coming?” her colleague asked.
“I can’t leave you here.”
“I need to clean up. Go!”
She tapped the van and headed back into the house. In the living room, she took steps backwards. Her hand directed her gun at the security camera she had discovered minutes ago, just when she was guiding the girls outside. There was no time to search the house for more cameras. If someone had been watching as she had predicted, it was bad for her cover. It would be hard, almost impossible, to identify her, but she didn’t want anyone having even the slightest opportunity to do so. The place needed to be burned down and all evidence of her presence there destroyed.
After she wrecked the camera, the Black Witch went into the kitchen. There was a cooker and a 12.5kg gas cylinder. She turned on the burner on the cooker, letting the gas leak. She then proceeded to the suite of double rooms for a thorough search. Nothing significant was found except cell phones and an old laptop. She destroyed the laptop and took out the hard drive, even though she suspected that she would find anything important on it.
Content that she had done enough, she arose and began out. Stepping into the living room, she was greeted with the presence of four men. Three of them were furnished with guns that were targeted at her. The fourth man was Kashimu. He was unarmed.
Bianca held onto her weapon until she was commanded to drop it. A man stepped forward, kicked her gun away and proceeded to search her. Out of her pockets he took out a phone, serrated daggers, an extra magazine for her handgun, a lighter and a metal string.
“You want to take the entire jacket?” she asked, face to the floor. Kashimu’s eyes were on her. He didn’t recognize her. Not with the contact lenses she had on, the foundation on her face that was shades darker than her complexion, the black lipstick, the wig with fringes and the sticker tattoo she always wore on the side of her face whenever she assumed the identity.
The Black Witch had both hands detained behind her with a plastic handcuff after her jacket was taken off. She was pushed towards Kashimu. He gazed at her with interest, his eyes looking for something. She wondered what he was doing here. His sophisticated form, still dressed in the suit he wore that morning, stuck out oddly in the place. As far as she knew, he was not involved in this sex trade business with Baka. Or was he?
“The Black Witch,” he muttered. “This is an honor, I must say.”
She was silent.
“I guess you came here for a noble act, judging by the dead bodies in your wake.”
She continued in silence. He picked her chin up. His eyes dropped on her lips and lingered. A frown came upon his face.
The men hesitated.
They hurried out of the house. He freed her chin and in one movement, ripped the black shirt she had on, exposing her body. His eyes rested on her navel, on the scar he had asked her about that morning as he kissed his way down to her pelvis.
He lifted his head up, face confused. “Bianca?” his coarse tone whispered. “I don’t understand. You’re the Black Witch?”
She was caught, exposed for the first time ever. Bianca cussed herself within, but on the outside, kept a blank expression.
“I don’t understand what this means,” Kashimu repeated.
“This has nothing to do with you unless you’re also involved in ruining the lives of innocent teenage girls…”
Kashimu grasped her throat and squeezed hard. “You have no idea what trouble you’re in right now. You’ll be lucky to have your head still on your shoulders by morning.”
He held on to her neck until she began to struggle. He let go. She doubled over, coughing. He called his men in.
“Take her to my car,” he ordered as he walked out. “Backseat.”
“Gas is leaking in there. Burn the whole place down.”
“Burn it down.”
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