I had an appealing proposition for Kashimu. I wanted him to trade off his arms business to Captain. I was to be the go-between. It was hard to say no to my offer when he was appreciating the suppleness of my body. There was no sex, just good old making out, and he was losing his mind.
The shipping company he formerly used for the import of his weapons had now gone clean. He no longer smuggled arms. The business disappeared into the blue like it never existed. Well, on the outside, it had never really existed. For those of us who knew, we considered it the work of a mastermind to make it vanish that way.
That was how genius Kashimu was. He had told me he would do this, and he did it. No weapons, no trace. Nothing. And yet, the business was up for bid in the black market. He already had willing buyers, but the offers were not appealing. It wasn’t about the money for him. It was about the bargain hunters. You did not sell to just anybody. You had to choose cautiously.
This morning, while letting him kiss his way around my body, I told him I was going to make it happen.
“So Captain sent you to kill me?” he asked, leaving the bed to attend to a phone call.
“That’s not the point here, Kash. You want to get out of crime. I have the perfect deal that can get you that. Don’t sell to anybody yet.”
He picked his call, spoke for a while, and then entered the bathroom. I watched him go under the shower.
“I know the beef between you and Captain started when he wanted to buy the business off of you and you refused.”
Kashimu turned on the faucet. He didn’t confirm my allegation. I followed him to the bathroom. He called me over to the shower stall. When I got in, he pushed me to the wall, his hand pressing into my neck.
“What’s really going on, Bianca?”
Kashimu trusted no one. He suspected I had a sinister motive. The only motive here was to save his life and to get me where I wanted. Captain had taken me off his case last night. His reason was that my family’s issues with the Acre Society had made me weak. I was able to give him all the information he needed on Kashimu, but not his head. He wanted blood. I couldn’t do that. Kashimu was my smooth entry into the AS without having heads roll. Heads, of course, would still roll, but not Kashimu’s.
The bastard’s hand was still on my neck. I was beginning to choke.
“What exactly do you want from me,” he asked.
“You already know,” I squawked. “Stop asking me stupid questions.”
I gave him no warning as I sent my fist into his ribcage. He lost his hold and bent over. I grabbed his arm, twisted it behind him and had his face to the adjacent wall. He was laughing.
“You’re some work, Bianca.”
“Stop being physical with me. I’m in a bad mood these days. Try that shit again and you’ll be losing some fingers.”
I held him hostage.
“Okay, so here’s the deal. I get Captain off your back, you hand him the business and remain clean on the outside while you climb up the Acre ladder…”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Because you know that the AS is made up of the baby and the bathwater, and despite being the scum of the earth, they hold clout and businesses. And when they eventually go down—which they will very soon—those that rise from the ashes are going to be powerful and affluent. Imagine a new Acre Society without crime, actually influencing political and economic decisions across Africa. An Acre Society that works with the Cabal. Don’t you want to be part of that?”
“Is that all? What else are you offering?”
“The Bahago wealth you so want. Not all of it, but some. Enough for you to take the reins when the time comes.”
He laughed pleasurably. “Are you offering what I think you’re offering?”
“Yes, Kashimu. I’ll be your wife. But to make that happen, you have to buy into the family’s refinery. One of the major partners is selling his stake. My brother, Yohan, is set to buy it off of him. It’s already a done deal, but I can get it for you.”
“Okay, I’m getting hard again and this wall is not the best thing to be poking.”
I didn’t release him. “But our marriage is only on paper. I remain who I am and have the freedom to do as I please.”
“One date night every week and attendance of official occasions with you. Plus, you stop screwing other guys.”
“My pussy is non-negotiable. And I don’t care what you do with your dick.”
“Can I go now?”
I freed him. He tried to pull me towards him but I moved back under the shower.
One of the boring aspects of being an operative undertaking any type of intelligence work is the long wait you sometimes have to endure when nothing happens. During that time you gather information, tail your targets, put your ears down for anything that pops up and just generally, wait for something to drop on your laps. It’s harder when you’re running black ops as Lanre and I were doing. The NIA, on the record, was not connected to our gig.
Weeks had passed since Ola’s death and there was no sign of Shiloh. She had done her thing of vanishing without leaving crumbs. I had miscalculated. She didn’t come after me as quickly as I had anticipated that she would. But on the other hand, she had fallen right into our trap. She was putting together a new crew and we had our man on the inside. So far, he hadn’t given us anything tangible yet. Shiloh was a very cautious bitch.
This left me restless and angry. And it was a bad place to be as far as the Black Witch was concerned. Captain didn’t make things easier either when he told me he was taking me off Kashimu’s case. He also reiterated that I was not to go near the Acre Society. Was I supposed to stand by and unlook as they hurt the people that meant everything to me?
Was he mad?
But of course, I didn’t express myself to him that way. I stood there, watching his dark lips as they moved. I had learned from him not to wear my emotions on my sleeve even if I was dying inside. But I wasn’t dying. I was raging. Yet on the outside I bore the calm of a quiet, blue sky. I left his house last night with defiance burning in my heart and a familiar hunger that needed to be sated. The Black Witch wanted to see someone’s son in pain.
My target had been a vile creature of the night. He was named Iyke. He seemed like an upstanding citizen on the outside, but he raped virgins for sport. His mother was the Minister for Women’s Affairs. What a joke! He was part of the dark side of the Acre Society. They kidnapped, caged and raped virgins. Afterwards, they sold them to those who harvested their organs and used their other parts for flesh-eating. There was an entire foul universe run by these degenerates. A well-organized network of criminals. Way larger than what Captain ran. They bought and sold humans and commodities amongst themselves, and for every transaction made, a certain percentage went into the society’s main coffers. It was a booming trade.
Iyke’s procedure was to have his boys pick girls they suspected to be virgins off the streets and anywhere else they could find or buy them. They took them to a place where a medical personnel confirmed that their hymens were still intact. If they were found not to be virgins, they would still be sold to the organ harvesters or to Baka who had them transported out of the country via his human trafficking trade. No one escaped alive.
I knew I couldn’t present myself as a virgin or position myself where I could be caught. Best bet was to follow them. And this was no stress. Nigeria made crime easy to thrive. If people were observant enough, they could easily fish out the villains from amongst them.
I had my person follow those guys for a while. They used numerous hideouts in unlikely places. It left them both protected and undetectable, but quite easy to be caught. For last night’s location after a successful hunt, they drove into a rusty neighborhood on Lagos mainland.
When I received confirmation from the guy who was keeping watch on them to move in, I spared no time. I had been lurking around the neighborhood since leaving Captain’s. The kidnappers were quite careless. Their car was parked outside. I was already informed that there were just three of them inside the location, asides the captured girl. I had to move quick.
My Black Witch facial tattoo sticker was in place to disguise my looks, but my face was also shielded by the hood of my jacket. I entered a small complex that held a restaurant up front, a radio station in the middle, and a two-room apartment at the back. I made straight for the apartment. On the door was a church sticker and another with a religious quote.
I rapped on the door and immediately slipped on a pair of earplugs and protective eyeshades. I dug my hand into my pocket and waited. The instant the door opened from within and a guy appeared in front of me, I threw a punch in his jaw that knocked him out cold.
His colleagues sprang to their feet, but they were not prepared for the stun grenade that bowled to the center of the room. The explosion it gave caused instant deafness and a loss of balance that temporarily disoriented the guys. And the flash of light that came with it was a bitch too. They were certainly seeing binary images as I walked in and picked the one whom I knew headed the gang. I pushed him to the wall. The snout of my gun kissed his face as I waited for his vision to clear. I produced a flashcard because I knew he was deaf at the moment. The card asked where the girl was. He pointed at a door leading to the next room.
I turned the card around and the instruction scrawled on it told him to secure his colleague. I threw a couple of plastic cuffs at him. He knotted the guy’s hands and feet.
I pushed him towards the room where the girl was held. He opened the door. The place had a dirty mattress on the floor and a plate of untouched food beside it. The girl was gagged but untied. The windows of the room had been covered by wooden planks.
“Get up,” I ordered. She did as I ordered. I made gestures to the guy to ungag her. He obeyed. The girl ran behind me. A second flashcard instructed him to take me to his boss.
The three of us left the place with no one suspecting a thing. Out on the street, I gave the girl a thousand naira note and directed her towards a police patrol van parked in an alley ahead of us. I didn’t wait to hear her vote of thanks. I followed the criminal into their car, sitting in the passenger seat beside him. He made an attempt to look at me the moment I removed my sunshades. I pushed his face away with the gun.
“Drive.” I was sure his hearing was returning by now. I took off my earplugs. The car came alive and we were soon on the road. The drive was a long one, but we finally arrived at a location that was on the list of Iyke’s hangouts. It was a small guesthouse used to assault his victims. He occasionally held gangbangs in the place where girls were brutally raped.
The security in the hotel was shit. Nobody was keeping watch when we arrived there. We went past the reception and got a smile from the girl stationed there. We branched off to the left wing of the hotel and came to a door that had ‘Executive Suite’ written on it. The guy knocked. My gun pressed into his side. The door opened and he went in the way of his friend when I had him flat on the floor with a jab at the back of his head.
Iyke, wrapped in a towel alone, began backing away from the door and begging for his life. He tried to make a run for it, in the direction of an exit door that led to a balcony, but I ran after him and pushed him to the floor.
“Hi Iyke.” I turned him around and sat on him. “Ever heard of the Black Witch before?” His eyes widened. I threw off my hood. “Yeah, that’s me. Nice to meet you. I need you to have a good look at my face because it would be the last face you’ll ever see.”
I drew closer and spread my legs over his upper body, precisely his neck, so that my crotch was to his face. He tried to push me off, but it was of no use. I produced a knife, and without a single sign to show what I was about to do, I speared his left eye. He made to scream out, but I covered his mouth. He struggled beneath me.
“Sh-sh-sh-shhhh. No, don’t do that or I’ll kill you,” I said sweetly. “And I don’t want to kill you. I just want information.”
The weight of my body eased off of him as I stood up. He was clutching the damaged eye, trying to rise to his feet at the same time. But I wouldn’t let him. I grabbed him from behind and fixed a string around his neck, sitting on the bed, while he struggled on the floor.
“I want information on the persons that run this rape gang with you. Names. Everything else I need to know.”
Iyke was easy to torment. He was a smallish man, a weak one and a coward. He spilled the truth like he was breathing air. Literally, he was. Copious gulps of oxygen, for each time I stopped choking him and allowed him breathe. I didn’t need to do that, of course. But it was fun. So much that I couldn’t stop and he passed out after the fourth time.
But I wasn’t done. I had promised him that my face would be the last he would see. His boy who had gone unconscious earlier, sprang up in stupor. He fell back to the floor, though. He would need more than just getting up to be fine.
I slapped Iyke awake. He opened his only functioning eye to see me one last time before I blinded him completely.
Still, I wasn’t done. I was beginning to feel myself. I flexed my feet on him from all directions, like I had ten more pairs of legs. The mechanism that always stopped me from going to the extreme was dysfunctional. I was having a fucking fete. And I would have gone on had my phone not begun to ring.
I rested my foot on his face and branded him with my initials as I answered Archie’s call.
“Hey you.” I steadied my breathing.
“What’s up? I just finished my rounds. Where are you?”
The sound of his voice set me on a different type of hunger.
“Go home. I’ll come meet you.”
Home was his former house. He knew exactly where I meant.
The connection was cut off. The serial rapist beneath me wasn’t moving. I’d normally check for a pulse in instances like this, but I didn’t care if the dude expired. I took pictures. It was always good to keep records.
Out on the street, I picked a cab to Ikeja Mall where my car was packed. It was raining hard. I noticed that my dress had a few bloodstains. I took out another dress from the trunk and changed into it in the backseat. It was shorter, barely covering my ass. The type of thing Archie liked. I was craving for him in ways I hadn’t before.
I sped to his former apartment. He was playing a computer game when I got in. He spared me a glance, went back to the game, and then looked at me a second time, lust growing in his eyes. I was standing there, wet from the rain, because I had had a flat tire along the way and had to change it. From what I saw, it was punctured in a manner to make it lose air slowly. I suspected Shiloh. She was crawling out of her hole.
I shut the door behind me.
“Is it from opening the gate that you’re wet like this?” Archie asked.
I didn’t respond. I rushed to him, sat on his laps and kissed him fiercely. His hands cupped the bare skin of my bum as I rocked back and forth on his dick. When I let go of his mouth, he looked up at me with a mix of pleasure and surprise.
“I thought you said we were never going to…”
Well, let’s just say I gave him the fuck of his life on that couch. At least, I went thrice at it until he took over and rode me like a beast from behind. Those sessions put calm on my anger, I think. We snuggled on the couch subsequently.
“Fuck, I should have married you, B. You’re driving me nuts. I love you ehn.”
He was drawing zigzags on my back. My finger was making a continuous circle around his nipple. I felt at peace on his chest. I soon found my eyes shutting down. He carried me to his bedroom, smacking my bum and making me giggle like someone in love. I let him dress me in his shirt. I let him kiss me and tell me how much he loved me.
“Let’s go on a vacation for a bit. Spend my birthday with me, B.”
It sounded like a plan. I smiled at him before sleep took me. I woke up in the middle of the night to find him working on his laptop. I went over to him. He had me sit on his laps.
“You look good in my shirt.”
He shut the laptop. His phone was ringing.
“Muna,” he said. He didn’t take the call. He took me back to his bed and did this thing where he was massaging my waist because he thought it was sore from all that riding. But what he succeeded in doing was getting me all moist for him again. We did the leisurely lovemaking thing. And I swear, it was scary. It was like every time I didn’t think I could fall harder for the man, I found myself doing so.
He got me in that place where I started thinking of alternate realities. That place I constantly got Lanre into – where the world was free of blood and gore and power-hungry men who destroyed lives. I saw myself living a quiet existence with Archie and our perfect little kids. Two boys. Or maybe two girls. Not a boy and a girl. I would be pregnant with another, because it would feel good to be pregnant for the one man I felt something deep for. Or something like that. I’d have kisses for breakfast and lovemaking like this for dinner.
That was how Archie made me feel.
I was looking into his eyes and holding his face as we moved together, in sync, slithering, writhing, stroking. We felt no shame. There was no guilt. It was Archie and Bianca. Best friends for life.
After sex, we stayed awake, talking until the sun showed and began to dry the rain away.
I went home first, before heading to Kashimu’s. I had just gotten in when Muna’s call came through. She was excited on the phone, laughing, shrieking. She wanted me to be the first to know. She had just peed on some stick. She was carrying Archie’s baby.
I told her congratulations were in order, and then I added, “You have to stop drinking now. Don’t drown the fucking baby.”
“Jeez! You’re a buzz killer, Bibi.”
I knew. I was jealous.
When Tsakani stepped into the house she had once shared with Tanko, depressing and pleasant memories consumed her. This had been the routine for three days. She walked in and the past came at her without mercy. She didn’t want to be there. It made her feel caged. Made her feel like she was his wife all over again. And yet, there was some sort of soothing nostalgia it brought to her.
Tanko had insisted on returning to the house, refusing to stay with the family. He needed his privacy, he had argued. And the doctor agreed with him.
“If that’s the place he’s most connected with, I would strongly advise that he goes there.”
Tsakani didn’t approve of this. And nothing she tried to say made Tanko change his mind. Victoria didn’t help either. Keeping a stony face, she had sat detached from the argument as Tanko’s nurse packed his personal items into a bag. When they arrived at the house that day, they met it dusty. There was already a team of domestic staff on its way from the family home. His nurse was also going to be regular there.
Tsakani had dusted a white leather sofa and helped him lower into it. She then stood by and tried not to look around. The décor pieces and furnishings had not been taken away. Even a framed photo of both of them on their wedding day hung tauntingly on the wall. She had not had the mind to erase him from the house, and had chosen to leave, instead. Victoria had respected her wishes and kept a relative to stay there. The relative maintained the cleaning of the house until he left the country a few months ago. Tsakani was scared to go into their bedroom, to find things just as she had left them.
She did, however, when the maids eventually came and cleaned up the entire place. They put new sheets on the bed and placed flowers in a vase on the nightstand which Tanko hurled at one of them as she tried to leave the room with his late dog’s collar picked from the windowsill. The shocked lady moved away from the mess on the floor, her lips muttering apologies.
“It’s okay.” Tsakani guided her out and took the collar from her. She handed it over to Tanko. He caressed the engraved name on it. Tsakani cleared the messy floor as much as she could before going for a broom and dustpan. She returned to find Tanko unbuttoning his shirt.
“It’s cold,” she said. He was staring at the scars on his body. He was yet to know there were more on his back. She didn’t want him to find out.
“The shirt s-s-s-stinks of dugs.”
He meant ‘drugs’. She understood.
Tsakani opened the bag they had brought from the hospital. It contained a change of clothes. She helped him into a clean shirt. When she began to button it, he put his arm around her. She showed no resistance. She didn’t want to upset him. He was looking at her intensely. They were things he wanted to say. She was glad he was having difficulty letting them out.
The nurse appeared at the door and made to leave, but Tsakani called her back, detaching herself from Tanko.
“I have to put him on his fluids,” she announced. Tanko showed exhaustion. He had been in the hospital for a month. Endless MRI scans and needles and intravenous fluids and all sorts of observations. It sometimes threw him into depression. He wanted his life back. It was frustrating not being himself again or remembering what had happened to him.
An IV stand was wheeled in. Tanko positioned himself on the bed. The cable television was non-existent. The satellite dish and the decoder were nowhere to be found. He was stuck with his laptop for the night. When the nurse was done with her activity and left the bedroom, he asked Tsakani to stay over.
“You know I can’t. But I’ll be back tomorrow.”
She kept her promise the next day and the day after that. She was here again today, having stayed away from the office, just to be with him. Another reason was the crippling morning sickness she was battling with. She was pregnant, but scared to confront Victoria, although she bore a grudge in her heart. Not that she hadn’t tried to walk up to her and accuse her. She had, a couple of times, but had chickened out the last minute. Victoria was not the type of woman you accused if you didn’t want her gutting your pride and emotions, and making an enemy of you.
Tsakani had accepted her fate, anyhow, choosing to be responsible for her actions. Her marriage to Pero was already falling apart. They were trying to fix it by seeing a marriage therapist, but somehow she feared that it was doomed. His mother had called her more than a week ago to ask if she was willing to accept him marrying a second wife.
“Am I not enough for him?” she asked the woman.
“Nobody is saying you’re not enough. Pero can have more than one wife,” the woman replied with hostility. “Especially since your former dead husband is back and you keep spending all your time with those people.”
Tanko’s return had leaked out to the media. Tsakani was sure that it was how the woman had gotten to find out. She didn’t think Pero discussed their marriage issues with her.
“Mommy, Pero has not said anything about wanting a second wife. And even if that should ever come up, it would be a joint decision.”
“Joint decision keh! He is a man. He does not need your decision to have a second wife!”
That conversation had been painful. Tsakani mentioned it to Pero, and in his usual way, he didn’t act like it was a problem. But days after that, she made a casual, unannounced visit to his office and discovered that Sufiat was working there as cost controller. Sufiat herself thanked Tsakani for the generous offer of an apartment she and Pero had gifted to her. Tsakani had not confronted Pero afterwards. It was her manner not to flog on things that hurt her. Or maybe she didn’t love Pero enough to get into a fight with him over another woman. She would have clawed Tanko’s eye out if he had done what Pero did.
Pero’s silence about Sufiat irked her, however. She needed an explanation. A justification for why he would spend that much on a woman without telling her. And then there were the phone calls that came in which he ignored. They weren’t many. Maybe two or three, but to Tsakani, they were a thousand. It was for these reasons that she looked into her future with him and saw them apart. It broke her, but she accepted it, and also the baby whose paternity she wasn’t certain of. She was pro-life, and for the first time, she hated herself for being so. Tsakani knew friends of hers who would go for an abortion without a second thought. She couldn’t. She loved the baby’s father, whoever he turned out to be. The pregnancy would be kept.
Victoria was making Tanko’s breakfast when she entered the house.
“Good morning.” Tsakani kept the bag of fresh fish she had come with in the sink. She had deliberately omitted ‘Mommy’ from her greeting.
“Good morning, Tsaka. How was your night?”
“And the boys?”
“Pero took them to Ilorin yesterday.”
“And how is Pero himself?”
A maid came over to where Tsaka stood. She asked what she wanted done with the fish.
“Clean it. I want to make peppersoup.”
“Your kitchen needs a makeover,” Victoria mentioned. She placed a plate of boiled potatoes on the table. As she opened a pot on the cooker and the aroma from it hit Tsakani’s nostrils, she started to feel queasy. It had been difficult conveying the fish from the Bahago Coldroom where she had gotten it. The smells were all teeming up to make her morning miserable.
“Are you okay?” Victoria asked. Her concern excessively playing on her face. Tsakani didn’t look at her. She concentrated on the yellow of her outfit. The sunflowers that seemed to be smiling at her and telling her that her world was about to come crashing down.
“Are you sure?”
Tsakani managed a stare at her. “Yes.”
She felt like strangling the small, old woman who had eyes like an eagle’s that loved to pick apart her prey before she set her talons on them.
“You know I saw Pero the other day?”
“You did? Where?”
“At the mall, I think. Or was it at a hotel where I went to drop some herbal supplies for my friend? I can’t remember. Old age…” She laughed. Tsakani smiled graciously, still fantasizing on strangling her. “He was with someone. A familiar face. I think I had seen her at your wedding. You introduced her as your late neighbor’s wife.”
“I can’t remember her name. But she’s a Muslim, right. I remember her coming to the wedding all veiled up and looking out of place.”
Tsakani found it interesting what Victoria could choose to remember and forget. But she knew the information had nothing to do with memory. The woman was digging for dirt on Pero. Anything she could use to present him as a deadbeat husband.
“They didn’t see me.”
“Okay.” Tsakani didn’t encourage the gossip.
Victoria pushed Tanko’s breakfast tray before her. “I hope you’re fine with their friendship, though.”
Tsakani picked the tray. “Sufiat is more than a friend. She’s family.”
Tsakani sped to Tanko’s bedroom, almost bumping into the nurse who was hurrying out of it.
“Good morning,” the lady muttered hurriedly, smiling excessively, but walking away. She was out of character. Tsakani entered the room. Tanko had his laptop on his laps. He grinned at Tsakani as she approached him.
“You’re sexy to-day,” he said.
“Oh?” Tsakani stared at her outfit. It was a simple abaya. Nothing sexy about it. She gave Tanko a concerted stare. “Are you okay?”
“What happened between you and Nurse Nuhu?”
“I hope you weren’t rude to her. She’s really nice.”
He shrugged again. Tsakani placed his breakfast tray before him, taking away his laptop. He looked better than the day before. He had shaved.
He had his breakfast in silence. Sometimes he tried to feed her. She declined each time. She still felt nauseous. A video on Youtube had her distracted and in laughter throughout the duration of his meal. Tanko didn’t ask why she was laughing. Instead, he wanted to know if Pero was now forcing her to dress conservatively. He asked this in Hausa. These days, he had moments when all he wanted was to speak the language. He would refuse to mutter a word in English.
“No. He’s not,” Tsakani replied.
“Don’t like-k-k-k it.”
“You told me I looked sexy in it.”
She sighed and turned on the television. They had an hour before his physiotherapist arrived. They had a long way to recovery.
Lunch tasted like something his mom would prepare. This meant it tasted delicious. Tsakani was a better cook, though.
Pero wiped his mouth with the napkin on the table and thanked his host.
“The food was lovely, as usual.”
Sufiat smiled from the corner of her lips at him before rising up from her side of the table to clear his dishes. He watched her. The way her henna tattooed hands moved swiftly, and how her braids tried to interrupt her actions by falling across her chest and blocking the view her cleavage tried to give. He watched her when she walked away to the kitchen. Her wrapper swathed her bum and thighs, all the way down to her ankles. The swooshing sound it made when she moved.
“My office… When will they finish fixing it?”
“They’ll be done by today. You can come in tomorrow. But seriously, why didn’t you come in today? I told you that you could share an office with someone else.”
Sufiat claimed her chair at the other side of the table. “You want to act like people don’t hate me in that place? You fired somebody and gave me the person’s job. The one person that made everybody happy and was like a mother to them.”
“It was a joint decision by my partners and I. And unless the position is for best mother, I don’t see why anyone should give you grief.”
He hadn’t realize the weight of his words until he saw a drop in her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“It’s fine. I’m quite used to being reminded that I’m not a mother. My own mother called me the other day to ask me when I will remarry.” Sufiat laughed. Her cheeks glowed, despite it being a sad laughter. She was looking well, now back to the woman Pero had always known. He was glad he hadn’t listened to her objections about changing her life and helping her pick the pieces of it.
He recalled her words on the first day he had brought her to the house to see it, having just paid for it. She had stared around as if the place was biting her and proceeded to light up a cigarette she pulled out of her handbag. He hit the stick out of her hand.
“The same thing that killed Alhaji. Haba Sufi!”
“He died of pneumonia,” she said casually.
“But cigarettes worsened it. The doctor said that. And you’re smoking just like he did? Are you crazy?”
“Why are you acting like you care sef? You don’t. You’re just doing all of this to feel good. I expressly told you that I didn’t want your help. You insisted, and I said, ‘okay, Sufi. Allow the man do what he wants to do.’ I planned on looking for a place at the start of next month. But you come and do this? And you pick a place not far from your neighborhood? You think I don’t know what’s going on?!”
“What’s going on?” Pero asked.
She crossed her arms. “You want to act like the reason you’re doing this is not because you want something back? You that abandoned me for long and didn’t care for how I was doing…”
“Whoa! It was you who wouldn’t pick my calls. You who told me never to come near you again. I sent money into your account and you withdrew it, put it in a bag and returned it to my office. Sufi!”
“If you had wanted to try harder, you would have! But you gave up, because I stopped you from taking advantage of me again!”
Pero had been dumbfounded. He laughed at the ridiculousness of her accusations. “Unbelievable, Sufi. Just unbelievable. I don’t even have words. You know what, throw the house away. It’s yours. Do whatever with it. I’ve tried.”
He had started marching to the front door before she ran after him.
“Okay, I just exaggerated now.”
“Honestly, I don’t know your intention.”
“I made a promise–”
“Stop saying that.”
“But it’s the truth.”
“So what do you want me to say?”
“Say that you’re doing all of this because…” She faltered.
“Because I’m worthy in some way. That you see me as a person you can care for. That I matter in your life.”
“Have I indicated otherwise?”
“You keep bringing Alhaji up and keep reminding me that no matter what, I’m still a widow, and that whatever communication we have is because of him. And this also means that what we shared on that night was because of him…”
“That was a mistake, Sufiat. Alhaji had nothing to do with it.”
“That wasn’t a mistake for me, Pero.” She looked into his eyes. “It meant something.”
“Something like…?” Pero asked cautiously.
“I don’t know. Just something that I haven’t been able to let go of.”
“No nau, Sufi. No.”
“I know you don’t feel the same. But at least, tell me I’m your friend. Tell me I’m beyond Alhaji’s widow.”
He moved closer to her and took her hands. “You’re my friend, Sufiat. Is that even a question? You were always there for me. It was because of that friendship we ended up doing what we did.”
Sufiat moved away. “But you want to erase that connection and turn me into a charity project.”
Pero grunted. “You know you have stress, ba?”
“I know, but my concerns are worth mentioning.”
“Are you going to take the house or not?”
“Are you going to stop sweeping the issue under the carpet or not?”
He laughed silently. “You want to talk about that night?”
“Okay.” His hands went into his pockets. “Let’s talk about it. What do you want to know?”
“How you felt.”
“How I felt?”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a simple question, Pero. Did it mean anything to you or was I just some mistake, as you already stated?”
“If it didn’t mean anything, I’d have left after the first round. But I stayed and we had more and more…”
“But you still left without saying anything, and I’ve been wondering this whole time.”
“It was great sex, Sufi. The emotions weren’t that deep for me. I’m sorry, but Tsaka has my heart.”
“But don’t worry, I’m not going to put you in that situation again. I’ll keep things strictly platonic.”
A house and a job later, Sufiat was looking her best. Except for the sad smiles. Pero was proud that he stuck to his decision to give her an enhanced existence.
“Do you want to remarry?” he asked.
“Yes. When I meet the right man. And when I say ‘right man’, I mean somebody who would not give me stress, but give me a child. Somebody that is not abusive and unnecessarily demanding.”
“Somebody that loves you and you love?”
“I can’t fall in love, Adepero. Not after Alhaji. I just want a home. I don’t care if I have to share.”
“You want to be a second wife?”
“Or third, or fourth. I don’t mind.”
“You’re that desperate?”
“No. I’m lonely.”
She said it with a gentle, feminine shrug that touched him. They were open with each other, having gone back to that place where she provided the ear to listen to his marriage woes. He had told her about the latest goings-on between him and Tsakani. How Tsakani’s body language recently showed that she wasn’t willing to fight for them anymore and how it hurt him. Sufiat had advised him to express to Tsakani how he felt.
“To what purpose?” he had asked. “We would fight about it as we usually do. She defends him. She sees nothing wrong in being there for him. He was the love of her life. He left and now he’s back and has all of her attention. How do I compete with that?”
Sufiat hadn’t had words for him then.
“I understand loneliness,” he told her now. “That’s where I am these days.”
“Can we go to the parlor?”
Pero stood up and stretched. He was tired, caused not by physical exertion, but by the burden of overwhelming emotions.
He and Sufiat shared a sofa, sitting on opposite ends.
“Maybe you should travel out for a bit,” she suggested. Her braids had come to rest on her cleavage. He was staring again.
“I’m too busy for that.”
“Take Tsakani with you.”
“She won’t go.”
“Make her. Look, Pero, she’s your wife. Yours. Not his. And the more you keep making her the enemy and not concentrating on the forces pulling you two apart, you’ll be on the losing end. Tanko, or whatever that his name is, he’ll take her from you in a wink. Fight for her.”
“What if I don’t want to fight?” Pero questioned.
“What if I’m tired already? She’s tired too.”
“You said she might be pregnant.”
“And she hasn’t told me? What if the baby is his and…?”
Sufiat clapped her hands loudly to stop him. “Hmmm! You’re a case, Mr. Alimi.”
“You know how far my mind can travel.”
“Let it sha not travel too far. You know what? Enough of this depressing talk. Let’s talk about work.”
“Or let me just go home.”
She tossed her braids to the back. His eyes followed her movement and returned to the swell of her breasts.
“So you came to eat my food and disappear abi?”
“E ma binu, but I have to go.”
“Stay a little longer.”
“I really need to leave.”
He forced himself up.
“Thanks for checking on me, though.”
“You should be at work tomorrow.”
“And forget about your colleagues and how they feel about you. They’ll adjust soon.”
He hugged her on his way out to the door. When he stepped outside, she told him she had something to say.
“I’m just putting this out there.” She sucked in air and breathed out. “In case you and Tsaka never work out and you start fishing for somebody new, know that I’m available. That’s if some fat, pot-bellied Yoruba alhaji has not added me to his list of wives by then.”
Pero laughed out loud. “You’re shooting your shot at your boss?”
“I had to try.”
She smiled. “Just think about it, if worst comes to worse.”
“I hope it doesn’t.”
I wasn’t let in to see Captain tonight. He wasn’t taking visitors, I was informed. I suspected he was under one of his compulsory bed rests. He had a heart condition.
I got into my car, tempted to spend the night with Archie again. But I dumbed down my emotions and drove home instead. On the way, I listened to Lanre ask me questions about Iyke. Why did I do it? What was wrong with me? Why was I trying to jeopardize the mission? Why was I so stubborn? Were my acts compulsive or did I just enjoy torturing people? Was I mentally alright?
I didn’t have answers. Lanre hung up. All the way home I thought about Iyke and the squishy liquid that oozed out of his eyes. The first stab had been precise. The second one had been less accurate because the eye rolled all around the place. There hadn’t been much blood.
I was trying to feel something over what I had done, but it was a waste.
I approached my gate and waited for the gateman. Nobody came for the gate. I sensed something was wrong. I stepped out of the car, my Smith and Weston holstered.
I found the pedestrian gate open. The gateman was out cold on the ground, his gun beside him. I read his pulse. He was still alive. He looked uninjured. I approached the house with caution and walked through the front door which was also left open. Definitely smashed in.
Duru was lying face down in the living room. His laptop and a few items were scattered about the floor. His handgun lay on the chair he had probably fallen from. He hadn’t seen his attacker coming. He was listening to music from his headphones. Like the gateman, he was still alive. Uninjured.
From deduction, this attack had just happened. Both men would have been awake if they hadn’t just been knocked out.
The first person that came to mind was Shiloh. I didn’t know why. I simply sensed it was her, and I wasn’t wrong. There she was when I burst into my bedroom. She was laid out on my bed, dressed in a lingerie. Listening to some Sia song. If I had a dick, it would have gone hard at the sight. But the only hard thing on me was my gun, and I so wanted to shove it into her and end her dirty existence.
“Hi boo,” she smiled. Her smile could light up the world with evil. It always shone so brightly, everything else around her became dark and dead.
“Come and kiss me, baby.” Her eyes went straight into mine and I became like one that was hypnotized. God, she had that power to make me want to do things. “Come, darling. Come, get some sugar.”
I sauntered to the bed, climbed over it, climbed on top of her and lost my mind as my fists began to pummel her. Every punch I threw made her moan. She enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. I so wanted to kill her, and that drove me into a different kind of high. It wasn’t until after I heard her screaming like she was coming to an orgasm that I came to my senses.
I moved away from her, falling to the floor, wondering what had gotten into me. I saw her wiping blood off her face and laughing. And next thing I knew, I was being dragged up and pushed against a wall, my own gun in my face.
I remembered Lanre’s words. Are you mentally alright?