THE NIGHT TINA DIED
Desire and Ramsey were standing on top of a thick, green lawn that stretched over a large mass of land. To their left was a swimming pool filled with dirty water and covered with brown leaves from a large tree that stood in a corner not far away. To the right, the lawn continued and came to stop before a small, winding picket fence protecting a botanical garden. Alongside the fence were small Asian lampposts that lined a thin, straight macadam path coming from a three-storey house towering the entire area.
Ramsey was holding a handgun and he pointed aimlessly at things around him as his other hand pulled at the crotch of his jean.
“I feel like shooting something,” he said restlessly and aimed the huge tree by the swimming pool.
“Please don’t,” Desire scarcely replied when a deafening shot rang into the air. Birds cried out and fluttered away from the tree, causing a host of dry leaves to fall to the ground below.
“Behave yourself,” Desire said, above her ringing ears.
“We’re not alone,” Ramsey informed her, his eyes fixed to his gun in silent admiration.
“How do you know?” Desire immediately leaned her back on his and pulled a second handgun from his waistband.
“I heard the obvious sound of cocking guns but don’t worry, they’re Captain’s men.”
“How sure are you?”
“If you’ve been a soldier long enough, you’ll know an AK a mile away when you hear one. It’s a soldier’s basic weapon and we have four surrounding us.”
Desire relaxed her back but scanned the area carefully as her hand firmly held the grip of the gun in her hand.
“So,” Ramsey turned around and faced her, “you wanted to know the truth about the money underneath us and what’s really happening?”
“Isn’t that why we’re here?” Desire sighed in exasperation. “You’re so annoying sometimes, I want to strangle you.”
He smiled lazily. “What do I get in return for what you’re about to hear?” He asked, walking away from her in quick strides.
“Ram, I don’t have time for games. Hamza is in trouble.”
Ramsey was now standing towards the end of the lawn which stopped just in front of an outdoor bar that had dusty bar stools hanging off a bar table which was covered in dried pigeon droppings and dry leaves. He bent over and with one swoop, pulled the green lawn and began to roll it away from a smooth concrete floor underneath him. With the same quick strides, he returned to Desire and stopped.
“You were saying something about drilling holes here to get to the money?” he asked and Desire nodded. “Cover your ears.”
Desire obeyed and he began unloading bullets on a particular spot on the floor.
“Stop it! I know it’s concrete and it’s hard to penetrate!” Desire screamed above the noise but Ramsey was far too intoxicated to listen to her. After he had emptied his magazine, he stopped and inhaled deeply.
“That just gave me a hard-on!”
“Ram, I didn’t come here to play.” Desire was clearly irritated by his behavior.
“Once upon a time, Captain had a confidant, a man named Doctor B, whom you already know as Tony’s late uncle.” Ramsey looked around. “He owned this house, may his gentle soul rest wherever it is people like him rest… Yeah, so he and Captain were like brothers, the latter being the one that took the former under his wing and gave him the necessary connection he needed to excel in life. Mind you, Doctor B was all brains. The B in his name is there to prove that. He was good with software engineering and wrote programs as easily as you squirt during orgasms…”
“Totally unnecessary and inappropriate.”
Ramsey grinned. “Well, it was said Captain left all his secrets with him. Every single deal or transactions he made were in Doctor B’s care. There were bank transactions, tap wire recordings, videos, phone recordings, documents, sensitive military and government information…”
“But why would Captain do that? He taught us not to leave records of anything.”
“The bastard knows one day he’ll burn in hell for all he’s done but one thing he won’t do is go down alone. He will take the whole lot of his kind with him and that’s why Doctor B kept all that information. But word had gotten to him that Doctor B was selling his secrets out to certain persons at the top, those not part of the Cabal; they are a different group of individuals who have wanted to destroy the Cabal for a long time.”
“So Captain killed Doctor B for his betrayal.”
“That statement is debatable. Let’s just say the scientist died of a bullet to his chest.”
There was laughter in Ramsey’s eyes but Desire ignored its meaning. She followed his gaze down to the concrete floor where he had wasted his bullets and she saw him scratching at a tiny dent with the heel of his trainers.
“Of course you know I was just sending ammunition flying. What we have below is a safe and a safe house. There are two decks beneath us, one directly under the spot where the money is standing. If someone is able to drill through this floor, when he gets to a certain point, sensors imbedded deep in the layers of concrete will send a message to the operating system controlling the trap door where the money is standing and it will fall through and lock it in. So it’s a terrible idea to try to drill into this.”
“But why won’t Captain just get Tony and his friends and make them give him the numbers so he can get his money and everyone goes in peace?”
Ramsey stared at Desire like she was stupid and his sneer said that much.
“Did his almightiness tell you the money was his problem?”
“No but why kill them? He could have gotten his money if he wanted to a long time ago, even while Doctor B was alive.”
Ramsey scratched his nose. “Obviously, you know nothing about what is happening. That money cannot be moved from its spot.”
“If a certain amount is taken from it, the trap door beneath it falls open and both the money and the thief go down and are shut in until Captain’s guys come to the scene. Clearly, it wasn’t Doctor B that gave his nephew those numbers and he certainly wouldn’t have told him to go for the money when he knew it was a trap. He designed the place himself to the very last detail.”
“So…Tony killed Doctor B, stole the numbers and is going for the money?”
“No. Tony is working for Captain’s enemies, the same persons that contacted Doctor B.”
“Oh.” Everything was beginning to make sense to Desire.
“Maybe Tony did kill Doctor B but it’s obvious that whoever sent him has no idea that the entire underground compartment is a trap waiting to happen. Also, Tony is not working alone. One of his friends, either Moses or Richie or even Hamza is in cohorts with him.”
“Definitely not Hamza.” Desire shook her head strongly and Ramsey shrugged.
“My money’s on Richie.”
“So but what does Captain really want, Ramsey, if it’s not the money?”
“One, he wants to find where Doctor B hid the information in his care. Two; to know who Doctor B worked for and who else, apart from Tony, is working for the same people. Sefia is not only going to kill Hamza and his friends; she will make them talk before she does.” Ramsey looked into Desire’s face and read her worry. He whisked away a strand of hair covering her eye.
“I just came from Captain. He gave me two weeks to get the money,” she said in thought. “He knew it was impossible. Why is he leading me on?”
“My advice to you? Get Hamza out of town ASAP. Sefia might go for him next. She has a vendetta against you. Whatever did you do to her?” Ramsey began reloading his gun again.
“So the story about you two is true?” he asked and looked up but Desire was already on her way out.
* * * * * *
TWO HOURS LATER
Tony’s Range Rover Sports was parked under a huge mistletoe-infested mango tree that spread itself over Moses’ bedroom. It was a gusty night and the branches of the mango tree vigorously battered above the roof of the vehicle as a blustering wind howled over the one-room apartment Moses resided in. Having gone through three whole nights at work without sleep, he was spread out like a log on his bed and was snoring away while Tony and Sefia just concluded a steamy sexual session in Tony’s jeep.
“You are something else, Sefi.” Tony retrieved a bottle of liquor from beneath the driver’s seat and gulped it down as Sefia fumbled with her bra.
“If you sold a record for each time you told me that, you’d be fucking rich by now.”
Tony laughed. “Don’t worry. Soon, we’ll be, when that money comes into our hands. Do you know it would be cool if we could just find a way to get all the numbers from everyone else and have that money to ourselves?”
Sefia smiled and slipped into her thong. “We’ll get the money, luv. Soon. But now, go get me my suya.”
“Sefi, it’s almost eleven. And Tina would be awake now.”
“Tina sleeps like Moses. When they’re out, they’re out. Come on, I’m craving for that suya! Go!” She put on her t-shirt next.
“Sefi, it’s far nau.”
“The roads are free and it’s a bar. They’re still open.”
“Oya come down.”
Sefia filled Tony’s mouth with a kiss before she stepped out of the jeep.
“Extra pepper, loads of onions and tomatoes. No fat.” She hopped around, getting into her combat shorts.
Tony turned on his engine and drove away. Sefia straightened her clothes and stood in the dark, watching as his taillights disappeared into the night. She began heading back to Tony’s house which was just on the next street. She could hear the sounds of all sorts of music coming from drinking joints in the neighborhood; the night life of Jibowu had begun. She bustled through a crowd of people that just alighted from a long luxurious bus coming in from the North. Their tired faces and drawn expressions gave her something to help banish the familiar but unsettling rush of blood that was rapidly filling her up. Her fingers squeezed themselves into fists and the taut muscles in her arms contracted tightly beneath her t-shirt, acclimatizing to the blood as it continued to pump into her with crazy speed. She wrestled to keep herself controlled under its sudden invasion but she was weak to its force. If anyone had made an unexpected movement in her direction, she would have, without thought or pause, attacked them with her fists until she saw them bleeding and unconscious. Such was the state she was in as she hurried to murder Tina. Like a vampire in the midst of human flesh pulsing with fresh blood, she pushed through the sea of human faces hungry for blood. Her lethalness was on an irrepressible high as the invading rush of blood completely took her. It was blood that wasn’t hers but had lived in her from the very first day she had her first kill…
Sixteen paired teenagers. Ruthless soldiers with guns surrounding them. The scorching sun of Maiduguri. A large wooden table with metal boxes. Each teenager to a box. One mad man with evil on his mind.
The mad man was Captain. And he stood at one end of the long table with a glowing cigarette between his lips, watching the teenagers, a wicked smile punctuating his rugged face.
“Today, I have sixteen of you here with me and I must say that I am quite pleased with you for surviving three months in hell.” He slapped away a fly from his upper arm. “Some of you will turn out to be great men and women but unfortunately the rest of you might not leave here today.”
He paused, amused by their confused expressions.
“Open your boxes!”
They lifted the lids of their boxes and each person was face to face with some form of weapon.
“I carefully picked those weapons according to your special abilities to use them.”
Sefia looked into her box and saw a 9mm Colt SSP and she smiled satisfactorily.
“Look at the person standing opposite you. He or she is either going to be your best friend or your worst enemy.”
Sefia lifted her head and looked at the girl before her. It was none other than Desire.
Desire was not only a minion like her; she was someone she loved dearly. The soldiers who trained them were a ruthless bunch. They had forced the girls to satisfy them sexually for ninety full nights. Desire and Sefia turned to each other for strength after each brutal session; they became sisters and subsequently, lovers.
“Now with that weapon before you,” Captain continued as both girls bonded with their eyes, “you will kill the person standing in front you.”
Captain slapped off another fly but watched keenly the well-hidden shock on the faces of the teenagers. Due to their training, none of them dared show any significant reaction to his instruction, not even a shifting of an eye or the heaving of a chest. Captain smiled and continued.
“Look at your weapon again and consider if you would choose to make this person your friend or your enemy.”
Sefia narrowed her gaze on Desire and tried to see what she had in her box but the lid had been constructed in such a way that no one viewing from across the table could see what the other person had in their box.
“If you do choose to keep your partner alive, then you can shut your box. But if you decide to kill them, please do so without wavering.”
Captain looked into the face of his watch. “I give you sixty seconds to choose and execute your plan. When the seconds are gone, and your partner is still standing before you, it means you have chosen to remain bound to them for life. Then it would become your duty to protect their life at all cost and esteem it second to yours,” he concluded and looked at his watch again. “Time starts now,” he announced in a cavalier manner.
Initially, all was silent except for labored breathing. Then in the silence, a gun went off and someone fell down dead. Another shot rang out and a body went with it. A gurgling sound coming from the throat of a short, chubby boy whose carotid artery had been totally severed, caused Sefia to turn in his direction and she watched as his partner mercilessly stood by, looking into his eyes while he died quickly. Then without warning, a girl whose partner had also stabbed her in the stomach, ran towards Sefia and spurted blood in her face before falling into her arms with muffled sobs. Startled, Sefia reached for her gun and released three bullets into the girl’s chest without thinking. Afterwards, she drew back quivering as the girl’s dead weight crumpled to the ground. Silence took over the entire camp again as the sixty seconds given to the teenagers expired.
There were now only eleven of them left alive. Five had killed their partners; the other six still stood facing each other. Captain walked round the table and looked at every one of them.
“For those of you who killed now, I find your sense of loyalty disturbing. What are you expecting from me? An applause? A pat on the back?” He stopped walking and instant anger filled his form. “YOU DO NOT KILL YOUR PARTNER! EVER!” he thundered.
One of the girls, the one who had stabbed the chubby boy in his neck, was unable to hold herself any longer and she burst into tears and fell to the ground. No one helped her up. Captain walked to her and looked at her briefly. “The human blood is the singular, most unforgiving substance that has walked this earth. The moment you shed it, it cries for vengeance; it cries for more blood. If you do not give it what it wants, it will ask for your life in return.”
“I didn’t mean to!” the girl cried but Captain ignored her.
Sefia stopped wiping the blood on her face and turned to him.
“You seem to be in form today. For these five Judases, cash in their chips.”
The instruction was clear. It needed no repetition, neither did it require questioning. As the girl on the ground broke into a frenzied wail of fear and the other four resorted to pleading for their lives, Sefia did her best to push down the unsettling nausea rising from within her. But she was unsuccessful and was compelled to vomit over the corpse at her feet. Tears forced their way to her eyes and she bit into her tongue strongly to stop them until she bled.
“Sefia?” Captain called again and she looked at him with a face streaming with tears. His cold eyes like a poisoned dart pierced hers and a silent conversation transpired between them. Nodding rapidly, she drew her breath, lifted her head, and in one motion swiveled round and shot the wailing girl straight in the head. With unbroken accuracy, she went for the other four who had now been forced by the soldiers to kneel down, and released bullet after bullet into their brains. When she was done, she turned to Captain, the tears in her eyes gone.
“For those of you still standing, welcome to the Cabal. Pack up camp; we’re leaving immediately.” He turned around and entered his tent. Sefia threw a look at the slain on the ground and went round the table to examine their boxes. She discovered, to her shock, that those who had been murdered by their partners were given slower, less lethal weapons. They had been marked to die. She walked to Desire. Her box was still thrown open. It had nothing but a tiny vial of poison.
“What if I had killed you?” she asked her.
Desire shut her box. “I wish you had. Now that you’re bloodthirsty, my life won’t mean anything to you anymore.”
She turned towards the camping area and left Sefia trying to make sense of what she had just said.
* * * * *
TONY’S RESIDENCE/ PRESENT DAY
Sefia stood at the foot of Tony’s bed in his bedroom. Tina was soundly asleep under the blanket with her face up to the ceiling. Sefia flexed her muscles and thought of the best way to execute her target. She had no weapons on her as per her instructions; the deaths were to appear natural or accidental. She moved slowly to the bed and tugged at the blanket once, twice, but Tina remained sleeping. Slowly, she pulled off the blanket and left Tina’s body exposed, and then she gently climbed over and sat astride her. Tina’s fragile frame was spread in beauty and Sefia watched the rising and falling of her chest for a few seconds before she went in for the kill. Pulling her weight up and over Tina’s chest, she sat down hard and locked her chest, ribs and entire upper body, leaving only her hands free. Tina woke to a start, taking in a copious amount of air to counteract the compression on her chest which was stopping her inhalation; but as she lifted her head, her eyes rested on Sefia’s face and a shocked look took over her features.
“Sefi? What are you…?”
Shutting her up, Sefia placed her right hand over Tina’s nostrils and mouth and with forced pressure, stopped oxygen from going into her lungs. Tina struggled to breathe with flailing arms and legs, working up what little energy was left in her. She scratched and clawed but Sefia remained stock-still and applied more pressure on her right hand as her left hand tilted Tina’s jaw upwards to intensify the compression on her chest.
“Easy now, Tee, don’t fight it.”
At the sound of Sefia’s voice, Tina thrashed around more frantically and tears filled her eyes. Sefia looked away briefly and exerted additional pressure on her chest. After one full minute, she felt the first spasm beneath her and knew it wasn’t going to be long. She was an expert in close combat and had subdued burlier and stronger opponents and had effortlessly murdered a man who had tried to rape her with her bare legs. Fragile Tina was a walk in the park.
Another spasm, stronger than the former, shook her from beneath and she looked into her friend’s eyes. Fear had clouded them – the agonizing acceptance of her death. She wheezed and began to jerk in slow rhythm, weakening with every movement.
“I’m sorry,” Sefia said but it would be her last sentence to Tina as the jerking stopped and Tina’s hands fell limply by her side. Sefia remained immobile for another whole minute and then slowly, she took away her hands and felt her pulse. Tina’s facial skin began to relax into place. Sefia covered her eyelids and gently lifted the blanket over her as before; after that she withdrew from the bed, looked around to see if she had left any evidence of her presence and when she found nothing, she speedily walked out of Tony’s house. Outside, she made her first phone call and it was to Desire.
“Nafi, Tina’s dead. Died in her sleep. Thought you should know.”