Dinner, he said, but he also asked me to have breakfast with him. Asked to share his bed.
It was a welcome distraction from the heaviness that clamped my chest. My mood was glum after the debriefing I had with Lanre and the boss at the home office. As I had anticipated, they took me off the Kashimu case.
“In light of your weekly reports, we have found nothing that indicates progress is being made by you,” my wobbly-bellied boss said. Sitting beside Lanre who was fit, young and fresh, the man looked like he was there as a vivid illustration of how one specimen can be the opposite of the other. In the office, we called this fat specimen Director Pam.
“We hereby, withdraw you from the case.”
“Is this an order from the top?” I questioned. I was looking at Lanre as I spoke. The muscles on his face moved in an alluring manner as he chewed groundnuts in silence.
“I’m the topest top you can find around here, Bahago.” The fat boss grunted. He hated being questioned. I enjoyed questioning him.
“Kashimu is an arms dealer,” I stated.
“Do you have proof of his operations?”
“Not yet. I was getting there.”
“Getting there? For how long?”
“I’ve been barely on the case for two months. He’s opened up to me. He’s shown me elements of his private life. I was getting there.”
“Officer, you are no longer on the case.”
“Are you replacing me with someone else?”
He looked at Lanre, and then at me. “That should not be your concern.”
“None of this makes sense to me. Kashimu’s business can be brought to the ground from the inside. I can do it.”
“Ms. Bahago!” he scolded. “It is over.”
“No more on this. You should be grateful that we’re not sending you back to headquarters. We will have something for you soonest. I hope you’re ready to start traveling again.”
I almost rolled my eyes.
“If you have nothing else…”
“I do, actually. Bakare Lamidi. Kashimu’s younger brother…”
Lanre stopped chewing for a bit.
“Yes. He’s deep into human trafficking.”
“I can help bring all that down.”
“Ms. Bahago, we are not petty crime fighters. We’re not the police. Need I remind you, in case you have forgotten, that it’s our job to collect and analyze foreign intelligence as regards to national security, so unless that human trafficking gang Bakare Lamidi runs is a threat to national security and it’s connected to a terrorist cell somewhere, we have no business with it.”
“And if I can prove that it’s connected to his brother’s arms deal business?”
Director Pam stretched out his collar, loosening his tie a little bit. “Explain.”
“Both syndicates run hand in hand–”
“How do you know?” Lanre asked.
“Bianca, we cannot work only on these hypothetical things you alone know about, just because you’ve spent some precious moments with Kashimu.”
Lanre was an asshole.
“Director Pam, trust me, I have something here. I know someone from headquarters or even higher above doesn’t want me pursuing Kashimu. But what if we can get him and Bakare down by going after Bakare? You say we’re not the police, that we don’t fight petty crime. But this is beyond petty and it crosses borders quite easily because of Kashimu’s long arms. Young, innocent girls are sold off as sex slaves. Boys even. Anybody who is healthy and whose body parts can be used for the organ trade. That is how far this goes, and they are getting protection from Kashimu. Are you going to throw away your one good lead to ending these men?”
Director Pam mulled on my words, tapping stubby fingers on the table separating us. This went on for a while, during which Lanre kept popping open groundnut shells and throwing the nuts in his mouth, his eyes never leaving me.
“Okay.” Director Pam straightened his posture. “You and Dada should come up with a plan. Run it by me at the end of the week. That’s if he feels it’s something worth pursuing. You must give me proof that both syndicates are connected. But that is totally up to him, as I said.”
He pushed his chair away as he stood up.
“This debriefing session is over.”
As he headed for the door, Lanre followed him.
“My office, Bianca.”
I obeyed his order and ended up in his office on the next floor.
“It’s not going to happen,” he adamantly specified.
“Why are you being like this?”
“I’m being like this because what you’re doing with Kashimu is personal business.”
“What I’m doing with Kashimu?”
“Tell me Captain isn’t in on this.”
Lanre went behind his desk and rested both hands on it. “Bianca, you will get hurt. Captain will use you for his own sick vendetta against Kashimu. You know this, but you want to play hero at the cost of your life.”
“I know nothing.”
“You know that your parents once ran in the same circle of dubious underworld villains that Kashimu is involved with. The same people that fucked Captain’s Cabal up. Does it make sense to you that Captain wants you to go after his enemies? He could have used any of his girls, but he chose you, a Bahago. Have you asked yourself why?”
“I’m good at what I do.”
“Bianca, you’re going to end up being collateral damage. The man doesn’t give a fuck about you. Kashimu too! You’ll end up floating in some lagoon or your bits chopped and couriered to your parents. Everything I’m doing right now is to protect you! I don’t want you caught up in the war.”
“Why, Lanre? Why do you care so much?”
He left the desk and went to a file cabinet on his left.
“You’re not answering me.”
He tugged out a heap of files and dumped them on the desk. “Your family, Captain and Kashimu. Case files on all of them over the years. This is why. My first case as an entry level operative was the Cabal, and then the Bahagos and now, the Lamidis. All of them led me nowhere.”
I moved towards the desk. “That’s not what I have been told. You were successful with the Cabal.”
“Somewhat. We tried, we delayed them, we saved many lives, but we couldn’t stop him. And then his numerous enemies foiled everything we took years to work for. At that point, we realized we were going round in circles. Bianca, this country is fucked up. Corruption is a mega demon assigned to Nigeria. Only a revolution can stop the wheel of crime the government is caught in. Why do you think I want to find some beachfront in some nameless place in the world to chill at and erase all I’ve seen and heard and can do nothing about? Why do you think I want to protect you from it all? You…” He stopped, bent his head. “You’ve seen hell, Bianca. You deserve a better life. Please, end this madness that wants to claim you. I’ve told you before. You can’t save the whole world. You’ll only end up hurting yourself and the people who care about you.”
I didn’t know how to react. This was probably the most vulnerable I had seen of him. It touched something profound in me.
“I… I understand, Dada. Thank you for looking out for me.”
“But I seriously need to end what Baka is doing. When I saw those girls he held, I never felt so sure of what my purpose is in this life. Somebody needs to stop these men.”
“Not you, B.”
“It’s the only way I can forget all that happened to me. Please, do this with me.”
“Bianca,” he groaned weakly.
He looked at the files before him as though expecting an answer from them. “The problem is, by the time you go after Baka and Kash, you’ll be opening a can of worms that has these other people involved. Are you sure you really want to do this?”
“I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.”
“And if in the end you don’t get what you want?”
“We can ride off into the sunset to some nameless place with endless beachfronts.”
He giggled like a little girl. “She’s got jokes.”
“I mean it.”
“Give me a day to think about it. In the meantime, try to stay away from Kashimu.”
“Yes, sir. Can I have these?”
“Use your level ten authorization to request for them. I have them all backed up in our servers.”
“Thanks. Permission to leave.”
I turned towards the door.
“Just so you know, it wasn’t me who called an end to your mission on Kashimu. The directive came in from headquarters this morning. Much to my pleasure. I would have done it myself, though.”
“See you later, Dada.”
I left the home office back to the gym where I pored over the e-version of those files. The things I found about my parents, especially, left me feeling sore. It took a hearty meal, Kashimu’s wispy mood and slow, orgasmic sex to make me feel better.
In the morning he played with my hair as he watched the news. During breakfast he asked if I could allow him spoil me with a short vacation. I replied that I wasn’t that type of girl.
“I’m not that type of man too, but with the right girl I can be anything.”
“You sweet talker.”
He winked. Just then, Baka walked in. From the look on his face I knew I was the last person he wanted to see. Both brothers exchanged stiff pleasantries in Yoruba and then Baka looked at me.
“Bianca, can you give my brother and I some privacy?”
“We can talk later,” Kashimu answered curtly. “After breakfast.”
“It can’t wait.”
“Come back when I’m done.”
“Egbon, this is a family matter. She can give us some privacy.”
Kashimu stabbed a piece of boiled yam with his fork. A frown crawled up on his face. I picked my plate and stood up.
“I’ll be in the room,” I said, hurrying off.
“Is something wrong with you?” I heard Kashimu ask Baka in Yoruba as I disappeared. When I was out of sight, I stayed behind the door and listened in on the conversation that ensued after Kashimu made clear to Baka that he didn’t appreciate the way he had addressed me. Baka made no apologies. He went straight to the issue that bothered him. From what I gathered, he wanted Kashimu out of his business. Apparently Kashimu showing up at the location where the girls were held was without Baka’s knowledge or permission. Kashimu had also taken responsibility for the deaths of the men I had cleaned out. Baka had no idea that the Black Witch had struck. He was a bearing a grudge for his brother whose underlying reason for his actions was to see the end of Baka’s human trafficking business.
Baka was livid. He had no intention of obeying Kashimu’s orders. Kashimu stated that if he continued, he would withdraw his protection and connections from him.
Baka laughed. “Because of her?! She shows up in your life and you’re turning your back on family?! I have been with you from the beginning! Every time you wanted me, I was there! Now, you’re turning your back on me!”
And on and on Baka went with his barrage of emotional blackmail while Kashimu stayed silent. After Baka’s tirade had run its course, he stormed out of the house. I hurried into Kashimu’s bedroom and propped myself on the bed. He came in, shut the door behind him and smiled.
“You heard none of that, I suppose?”
“Look, Kash…if I’m coming between you and him…”
“You’re not. Baka has always had the proclivity to throw tantrums. It’s his thing. Ignore all that.”
I put my plate away, bringing my watch to my face to read the time. “I’ve overstayed my sleepover. I have to go to work.”
“And here I was thinking we’d spend the entire day in.”
“Too much of a good thing eventually turns bad.”
“Glad you’re beginning to look at me as a good thing.”
“Don’t get carried away.” I picked my clothes off a chair. He kept his eyes on me while I dressed.
“There’s this shooting range I opened a few weeks ago. Maybe we can go there one of these days and you can show me a little of what you can do? That’s the type of girl you are, right?”
He escorted me out of the house and leaned over the driver’s window after I sat in my car.
“This thing we have is serious, right? I mean you’re here even after you were yanked off my trail by your bosses.”
I wasn’t surprised that he had knowledge of goings-on in my office.
“Or are you planning on leaving me?” he asked.
“Let’s just say I like your ugly face.” I held his chin closer and kissed him. “Bye Kash.”
I drove home. I needed a change of clothes.
The boys were having amala for lunch. It would be their second lunch and definitely their dinner. Tsaka couldn’t understand how they seemed to want to constantly stuff their mouths. Even Abdulrazaq who couldn’t string four words together had been able to tell her it was what he was hungry for.
Tsakani hated turning amala, but when the maid offered to help, she declined. She asked her to thaw a portion of the ewedu soup she had prepared the morning before. Bubbling on low heat on the cooker was a pot of vegetable soup for Pero. Tsakani had left the office early to ensure that she prepared it and put the house in order for him before she carted off with the boys to the Bahagos for Idris’ sixty-eighth birthday party. The old man wanted to celebrate with family alone at Liana Resort for the entire weekend.
Pero had given Tsaka his consent without a fuss, unlike the numerous times in the past when he hassled her over similar visits. In fact, he had been sweet all through the week. Debbie, Polo’s wife, felt it was a good thing. She was the closest thing Tsaka had to a best friend. Tanko had been that one friend she had needed, but after his disappearance, Debbie had taken some part of his space. She alone knew, apart from Victoria, that Tsakani had slept with Tanko. Like her husband, Debbie was a committed Christian. In her world, wives never dishonored the marriage bed. But in this instance, she didn’t condemn Tsaka.
“This must be hard for you, Tsaka. I can’t judge you, because God knows I might do the same. You and Tanko were a force. I’d have been surprised if that had changed just because he was away for a while.”
But then she asked Tsaka to try her best to stay away from Tanko, and invest everything she had in Pero. When Tsakani told her about Pero’s change of attitude, she advised her to count it a blessing.
“He was the one who asked to talk about it, abi?”
“Ehen. It means he’s making an effort, dear. If he didn’t try at all, it would have been bad. But he’s doing something. He’s walking in your shoes. Appreciate him, darling.”
Debbie loved to call people endearing pet names. She was as sweet as the baby face she bore. The only Bahago, alongside her husband, that was sane. They were a grounded couple. Tsakani was glad Polo had spoken some sense into Tanko.
“Ma, the soup is done,” the maid announced.
“Turn off the gas. When the ewedu warms, call the boys in and serve them. Please, don’t let Razaq feed himself.”
Tsakani washed her hands and exited the kitchen just as Pero entered the house. She wasn’t expecting him. It was a only a couple of minutes to four.
“Is everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah. I’m done for the day. I need to go and pray.” He kissed her lightly and hurried to the bedroom. She followed him in. “I thought I had my prayer mat in the car. Turned out your housegirl removed it when she cleaned the car.”
He picked one of three mats he had in the bedroom. “Can you tell her not to wash my car again? The gateman does it perfectly.”
“She doesn’t only wash. She does security sweeps too.”
Pero dashed towards the living room. “Pack a bag for me. I’m following you guys to Liana Resort.”
Tsaka drew back in surprise as he left the house. “Okay?” she said to herself. “This is getting weird.”
It took a few more seconds for it to register in her brain the implication of having Pero and Tanko in the same space.
She fretted for a bit, and then picked up her phone and called Tanko.
“Pero is coming for Daddy’s birthday.”
“And there go my plans to finger you under the table and sneak into your bed at night.”
“Stop being annoying. I’m calling you to tell you to behave yourself.”
“Have you told him to behave himself first?”
“Tank, don’t cause any drama.”
“Yes, ma. So no fingering under the table?”
Tsaka hung up. She packed a bag for Pero and bathed the boys who were now drowsy from all the amala consumed. By the time they got on the Lagos/ Epe highway, they were both asleep in the backseat of Pero’s car.
“Have I told you how handsome you look this evening, olowo ori mi?” Tsaka’s hand caressed the nape of Pero’s neck.
“There she goes with her flattering words.”
“I mean it.” She rubbed his cheek. “Thank you for doing this with me. It means a lot.”
“I got you, babe.”
They continued on their journey to the resort. They were the first to arrive. Victoria had suffered a fall a short while ago and sprained her ankle. In their manner of fussing over her, the Bahagos accompanied her to the hospital. They were going to arrive late.
A lady at the reception directed the Alimis to the wing of the resort where they were booked, after a bellhop provided prams for their sleeping sons.
“Impressive,” Pero muttered, eyes looking around him. The reception was a tribute to green life. It was as if the engineers had taken a small garden of beautiful, fragrant flowers and built around them. The place stretched out to a dining expanse where breakfast buffets were had. Around the space was a pond that stretched between walkways in which koi fish survived. You could catch a tubby cat or two peering into the pond for its next meal with hopeful eyes. It wasn’t unusual to hear the tweeting of birds, although one never saw them. The grandness of the place was intimidating to Pero at first glance.
“No wonder it was voted world class. Have you been here before?” he asked as they followed the bellhop, pushing their sons along.
“Yes. A couple of times.”
But Tsaka was lying. This had been her getaway spot with Tanko. They had probably lodged in every section of the hotel, from chalets, to suites, they had seen it all. Leonel always gave them huge discounts. At Tanko’s disappearance, after his burial, Tsakani had come to the place to hide away for a whole month. Her bills had been on the house. Leonel and his wife, Kyenpia, were two people she called angels.
“There they are!”
Leonel greeted when they came to the wing of the resort where they were to be lodging with the rest of the family. The place bore the name of one of Leonel’s uncles. Tsakani had learnt that he had named different sections of the resort after family members. The resort itself was named after his daughter.
Tsakani received a hug from him. She broke into laughter at the inscription on his t-shirt which read ‘My wife told me to wear this because I fucked up’.
“Don’t mind her,” he said, eyes on Kyenpia, who was making a phone call. She looked their way and waved at Tsakani.
Leonel shook Pero’s hands. “You’re welcome, Pero.”
“Thank you. This is an amazing place.”
“Thank you. Your first time?”
“That’s cool. Tsakani should give you a tour…”
“I should,” Tsakani responded quickly, cutting him off before he revealed that she had been at the resort several times.
“I heard what happened to Mommy Vicky. I hope she’s okay?”
“She’s fine. They’re already on their way.”
“Good to hear. So, your suites are ready. We weren’t expecting you, sir,” he said to Pero. “But your wife’s suite is big enough.” Leonel nodded subtly at the receptionist and soon a screen on the wall behind the desk displayed images of the suite they would be lodging in.
“But if you want something bigger…”
“This is fine,” Pero answered. “Perfect.”
“Great. The kids are the lucky ones. They get to stay with their cousins in the largest suite.”
“That’s fine as well.”
“Tsaka!” Kyenpia came forward, arms spread out for Tsaka. Both women were once on the path of becoming good friends, but Tanko’s disappearance happened and Tsaka cut everyone off.
“How are you? How have you been?” Kyenpia asked in Hausa.
“I’m good,” Tsaka responded the same.
“It’s been long o. Chai! Lagos can make people strangers.”
“I’m telling you.”
Kyenpia drew her away. They inquired about each other’s jobs and kids, and finally about their men.
“How is he taking everything?” Kyenpia nodded in Pero’s direction.
“As you can see, he’s here.”
“And Tanko would be here too?”
“Yes,” Tsakani answered with a laugh. Kyenpia laughed also.
“I don’t envy you at all. Well, except you’re having the best of both worlds.”
“Don’t talk abeg.”
“Imagine having two husbands and you have to share your time. Mondays to Thursdays for first husband. And the second, you’ll have him for the weekend. Phew! Double the pleasure. I won’t envy your kitty, though.”
Tsakani had always considered Kyenpia a little crazy. Well, she had to be, to be able to domesticate a man like Leonel who had a larger than life personality as the grandson of a former head of state and son of the most notorious soldier in the country. Asides that, he had created a name for himself as a business mogul, and this had ladies flocking to him like moths to a flame. But Kyenpia was that flame. She burned everything female that came into her territory without mercy and used tough love on her husband. Tsakani had once heard him say that it was the only way to get him to commit. His military background did not allow for anything less. However, Kyenpia was soft when she wanted to be.
“But seriously, who is your real husband then?”
“Pero. Tanko is legally dead, so…”
“No, I’m not talking about legally. You still love him na. Don’t you?”
“I do,” Tsaka admitted in a low voice.
“Have you and him…?”
Tsakani looked at Pero. He was occupied with Leonel.
Kyenpia’s eyes popped open. “And?”
“It was earth-shattering.”
“You want to do it again?”
Tsakani suddenly felt emotional. Kyenpia saw it. She took her hand.
“I don’t. Sometimes I don’t want to even see his face, and I honestly wish him dead. But other times, he fills my head so badly.”
“You’re only human. But don’t do it again. Try and do everything to avoid him or else it will be bad.”
Tsaka took her advice, which was nothing different from Debbie’s.
“If you sha want to hang out, away from family, between now until Sunday, call me. My friends and I are here for the entire weekend. The girls would love to meet you again.”
“Sure. Thank you.”
The women hugged once more and Tsaka returned to Pero. They were escorted into their suite where they left the boys sleeping in their pram and dove at each other in a quickie that didn’t make it to the bed. Afterwards, they handed the boys over to the maid who had just come in. Tsakani had wanted her to tag along with them to the resort, but Pero had been less hospitable, asking her to take a cab. It was clear that he wasn’t going to change his mind on certain things. She hoped his newfound forbearance extended to the Bahagos. Still, he scored points for showing up at all.
Tsakani had just emerged from the bathroom when reception rang to inform them that the Bahagos had arrived. Pero wasn’t in the suite. She figured he had taken a walk. He was the type that liked to explore new places on his own.
She wore a dress and went out to the reception, surprised to find him chatting with Polo and Debbie. After greetings were exchanged, she led Pero to where Tanko stood, having a discussion with Yohan’s daughter.
“Let me make a proper introduction,” Tsaka announced. “Pero, this is Tanko whom you already know as Naphtali. He’s my late ex.”
“Late ex?” Tanko grinned in mischief. “Well, better late than never.”
“But he’s back. Still my ex. No more late. Now, never.”
Tanko snorted in laughter. “Nice one.”
“Tanko, my darling husband again. Adepero.”
It was Pero who extended his hand first. Tanko shook it.
“I didn’t recognize you the other time,” Pero stated.
“Well, it’s not every day one expects to see one’s wife’s late ex-husband.”
“You look nothing like the pictures of you I saw. You were quite overweight before you died… Sorry, disappeared.”
Tsaka noticed the hidden smirk on Tanko’s face.
“Well, people change,” Tanko retorted. “Like Tsakani. I never imagined in this world that she would marry a Yoruba man. She always said you guys were cheap. You whored around a lot.”
The smile on Pero’s face was malevolent. Tsakani already began counting down to the big showdown that was coming. She needed to fix things before they broke.
“Tanko, can I speak with you for a second?”
Tsaka dragged Tanko by his elbow to a corner where they could not be heard. “I called you and begged you to behave.”
“And I’m the one at fault now? He threw the first punch. He called me fat.”
“You were fat. Deal with that. Don’t provoke him or you’ll get it bad with me.”
“Tell him to behave as well.”
“I’ve warned you.”
“I love it when you step right out of the shower. You always smell like heaven.”
“Tanko?” she warned, teeth clenched.
“In case you want to talk or something, my room is 105. It’s the one directly opposite yours at the end of the hallway.”
Tsaka went back to Pero. He was chatting with Yohan’s daughter.
As a father of six, it was normal for Idris to have his children fight for his attention, or to prove to him how much they loved him. Especially on his birthdays. It was not an exception this morning. The moment the clock struck twelve, one of them rang the bell of his suite.
He dragged tired feet to the door. Bianca was waiting with an eight-inch cake that had a burning candle.
“Happy birthday, Idris! Happy birthday, Idris! Happy birthday bestest Daddy in the world like no other! Happy birthday, Idris!” she sang.
She was the first to wish him a happy birthday, and the only one who had the guts to wake him up at midnight. Everyone knew he could move his entire world for Bianca. He seldom got angry with anything she did.
He smiled at her, pride in his eyes.
“Blow your candle, Daddy. Wish for anything in the world.”
She set the cake on a table before. They both settled into a sofa facing the table.
Idris bent and blew the flame out.
“I love you, old man.”
She hugged him. Her love for him was indulgent, even though she was mad at him and Victoria for all the crimes they had committed in their past. Human trafficking, drug pushing, human organ business, oil bunkering, they had dabbled their hands in them all. The files from Lanre revealed that they had not been directly involved, but had financed those crimes, alongside their friends, who belonged in the same fraternity as they had been. The Kentoro-Abassis too. It was an underworld of crime lords who ran legitimate businesses on the surface, but bankrolled their evil deeds as a form of control of the economy.
Bianca had always known they had played dirty once, but she was only finding out how much of a heap that dirt had been. She was going to have questions soon, and Idris and Victoria would give her all the answers she would need.
“You want to know what I wished for, DD?”
DD meant darling daughter. Idris’ special name for Bianca.
“That you bring home a man.”
“What?” Bianca laughed loudly. He hushed her. Victoria was asleep in the next room, having been sedated.
“Bianca, you need to get married and have kids like every normal young lady your age.”
“If marriage is what all normal young ladies my age look forward too, I am not normal then.”
“But don’t you want to have a man and a home?”
“Daddy, not this talk again nau.”
“Yes, this talk.”
“Not on your birthday.”
“When then is the best time to have it? When I’m in my grave?”
“Look, as a parent, your birthdays aren’t days on which you reflect on your life alone. You also reflect on your children’s lives.”
“And you want me to get married and have kids and not selfishly reflect on my life on all my birthdays?”
“Don’t break my heart, Yanka. Or are you a lesbian?”
“Because I’ve not brought a man home? Okay, I’ll bring one soon so that y’all can rest.”
“Don’t use that tone on me.”
Bianca dumped her head on his shoulder. “Then leave me alone, Daddy. I’m not ready.”
“Your mom… She would have been in support of you.”
“I know. My feminist mom.”
“When she discovered she was pregnant, she wanted an abortion. You were not in her plans. Not in mine too, but I just couldn’t let her get on with terminating the pregnancy.”
“That’s comforting. I’m the unwanted child.”
“Don’t ever say that about yourself.”
Bianca lifted her head off his shoulder. “I have a phantom boyfriend, though.”
“I hope it’s not one of those male sex toys one can customize?”
“That’s a relief. Your generation is rotten.”
“Let’s not start that argument. You know we were raised badly.”
Father and daughter laughed.
“But you’re okay, though?” Idris asked tenderly.
“Daddy dearest, I am.”
“Are you sure?”
“That’s all that matters.”
“Meanwhile, I have a present for you.”
“Yes. Follow me.”
Bianca led him out to the balcony. “Look up.”
Idris lifted his eyes. “And what am I supposed to be seeing?”
“Wait for it…”
Several seconds went by, and then a light shot up into the sky and burst into fireworks. More of them came, lighting up the darkness with brilliant colors.
“I didn’t know what to get you, as usual. This was my phantom boyfriend’s idea.”
Idris put his arm around her. “This is beautiful. Your sex doll is a keeper.”
“Daddy?” she chided playfully. They watched the fireworks until the sky went dark again.
“Yanka, you’re a showoff!” Muna shouted from where she stood at her balcony. Apparently, the entire Bahago clan had come out to watch the display.
“I have to rest these old bones,” Idris said. “Thank you, DD.”
“Daddy, can you do me a favor?”
“Please, talk to Mom about Jet’s girlfriend. I know she may not like her, but he does. Tomorrow would not be a good time to make the girl feel uncomfortable.”
“You’re right. She’s a quiet girl, though.”
“I can hear Mom say ‘the quiet ones are usually the worst.’ I kind of agree with her.”
“I’ll speak to Victoria in the morning.”
Idris covered Bianca with his arms in a long hug that had him rocking her. “You’re my favorite, you know that?”
“Awww, Daddy!” Muna called. “Spare me some hugs nau! Don’t give that traitor everything!”
Idris smiled. “Traitor?” he asked Bianca.
“Jealousy!” Bianca bit back.
“You girls and your little, jealous tiffs.”
“We’ll be alright, Daddy.”
Idris gave her a forehead kiss.
Bianca jumped over the balcony railing and walked down a stone path to Muna’s suite.
“I’m not letting you in.”
I ignored Muna’s protest and hopped onto her balcony. A bodyguard on duty showed amusement with a furrow between his brows.
Muna went into her bedroom. I followed. In her characteristic way, she had changed the hotel’s beddings to hers, making everything in the room look pink and shimmery.
“Okay, spill it. What’s your beef? You’ve been throwing subtle insults at me all evening. What the fuck did I do this time?”
“Like you don’t already know.”
“Like Archie didn’t already run to you to tell you.”
“Tell me what exactly?”
Muna crossed her arms and struck a troublesome pose. “Oh, so we’re going to pretend that we don’t know that our sister’s husband has a crush on us?”
“Why are you speaking in the third person?”
“I’m trying to be sarcastic here. That’s the mood.”
Muna was frustrated. She screamed a little and staggered off to the living room where she poured herself a glass of brandy, but then tipped her head backwards and gulped what was in the bottle.
“You need to chill with that.”
“Archie is in love with you!” she declared. “The vows that everyone thought he was saying to me was to you. Apparently!”
“That’s a lie.”
“It is not a lie. I watched the video again and again and guess fucking what?!”
“He was saying the vows to you.”
“Em…you just repeated yourself, bitch. And FYI, Archie is my best friend. Best friends do not say vows to each other. So go and find and kill whatever village people have gotten on your case and are doing overtime to see you destroy your marriage and the relationship you have with your sister. And next time you want to accuse me of something like this, come with proof. I’m done here.”
I started for the door.
“Stop.” She sat on the sofa behind her miserably, open wide her mouth and began to wail like a baby. She was definitely drunk.
“I hit him again and now he’s not talking to me!” she whined.
“Clap for yourself.”
“I didn’t see it coming. My hand just acted stupidly and I stoned him with my phone and it broke his nose. Why am I like this nau? I love this man! Why do I keep hurting him?!”
“That would be a question for another day. Right now, you need to stop drinking and go to bed.”
I rescued the glass of brandy off her hand. She tried to reach for it, rising up, but her knees gave way and she slumped. I caught her on time. She was passed out in my arm. I downed the drink and carried her as if she were a child. I laid her on her bed of pinkness.
I used the door out this time around. In my suite, I called Archie and told him about Muna’s present state.
“If you don’t show up here by tomorrow morning, you’ll get on my nerves,” I threatened.
He wanted to talk. I didn’t. I hung up and went for the files from Lanre again, taking mental notes, connecting dots he probably missed during his investigations. I crashed out after two hours.
I woke up at exactly 5 a.m. Kashimu had sent me a message while I was asleep. He wanted to know if I thought he looked good in grey suits. I responded that I thought he did. His reply came in immediately after mine dropped. He wanted a video chat.
We chatted for a bit, and then he left a message for me.
“I hope that your family has enough security at that resort. You guys should be vigilant.”
I didn’t take such statements lightly.
“What are you talking about?”
“Just saying. From statistics, people are most vulnerable during holidays. They let their guard down. For a family like yours that has had its own share of attacks, you guys shouldn’t leave cracks in the wall just because you’re having a good time.”
“Did you hear anything about an attack on my family?”
“No. Just advising you.”
“Okay. We’ll be safe.”
Our conversation ran its course several minutes after. I dialed Leonel. He answered in a peppy tone.
“Sorry to wake you up.”
“Wake me up? Girl, I’m as up as the rising sun.”
I heard his wife giggle in the background.
“I don’t want to know what that means,” I said. “We need to talk. When you’re done with whatever you’re doing, please call back.”
I rang off. Soon after, Leonel was at my door.
“That was quick.”
He had a t-shirt on that said ‘I’m wrong, my wife is always right’.
“What’s going on with you and your wife?”
He gave a robust laugh. “I screwed up. I’m being punished.”
“Did you cheat on her?”
“Cheat… That’s a relative word.”
“Leo, I know your dick has never been in any committed relationship. You’re there being devoted to one woman and the thing is out there wilding.”
“Wait, what?” He was laughing again. “How did we get into this conversation while I’m still standing at the door?”
I let him in and closed the door.
“But for the record, I didn’t cheat. There are many stupid things married men do asides cheating.”
“Okay. Anyways, I need to talk to you about security.”
“Is there a way cameras can be installed in every suite that has a Bahago in it?”
“Nope. That’s privacy breach. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. I think I’m paranoid.”
“If it’s because of what happened here five years ago…”
“No. It’s not.”
“I want to assure you that Liana is one of the safest places in this country. We doubled up on security after that tragic event.”
The event that claimed the lives of a few of his family members and some of their guests as they gathered to celebrate a series of events. It was the attack that had Captain undone. Leonel had almost lost his life as well, and had had to be taken away for two years for his own safety.
“Like I said, it’s just paranoia. And maybe my intuition is on hyper.”
“You feel something is about to happen?”
“Then don’t ignore the feeling. We’ll beef up security. Your guards are already top-rated, but we’ll keep an extra eye. Is that fine?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“Great then. I have punishment to serve. I better get on with it.”
“Is there a way I can be sent CCTV footage of the entire perimeter and the places we’ve all been at? I need to check for unusual movement.”
“Sure. I don’t normally do it, but you’re always the exception. I’ll send you a tab with the entire recordings.”
The tab came as promised. Delivered by a security guard. I studied the footage until the reception called for breakfast. The family was already waiting.
I changed my clothes and joined them at the breakfast area. They were singing the Happy Birthday song to Idris when I arrived. Before him was a huge cake shaped in the likeness of his face. I sat isolated from everyone and continued viewing the footage until the noise died down.
“Breakfast is served, everyone,” Victoria announced. One of Polo’s kids, being chased by one of Tsakani’s ran past me, almost knocking off the device from my hands.
“Boys!” Debbie clapped in annoyance. “How many times will I tell you that you don’t run around the breakfast table?”
It was a typical morning in the Bahago household, and Muna was about to make it more typical as she showed up with her hair in a mess and with just a nightshirt on, having no underwear beneath.
“Is it fair that nobody woke me up to come and have breakfast? Why are you people like this?”
“Munachi, I had the reception call your room a million times,” Victoria explained. “I even called your line but you wouldn’t pick.”
“What if I was dead? That’s how you would have left me rotting in there.”
“We knew you were sleeping.”
“I was tired after last night.”
“Or you were really drunk,” Yohan stated. “Smoke weed, you people will not hear. Na so-so alcohol.”
“Yohanna!” Victoria scolded.
“You won’t shout on her for getting drunk now. It’s my snide comment that’s worrying you.”
“That’s no way to speak to Mom,” Jethro said. He was obviously trying to butter Victoria’s ass to have a smooth landing for his girlfriend’s lips.
“That’s no way to speak to me,” Yohan retorted.
“Can we have a normal family breakfast, for fuck’s sake!” Tanko shouted.
“You’re swearing, Uncle Tanko.”
It was Yohan’s daughter who had spoken.
“And that is how you all ignored me again!” Muna complained.
“Munachi, go to the table and pick what you want to eat and sit down and eat.”
“Mommy, your tone is a bit harsh.”
“You’re lucky I’m not slapping you right now. Married women don’t get drunk, and they certainly don’t come out in public dressed like this.”
I saw Tsakani pass her husband an apologetic look. I also saw him enjoying the debacle that was the Bahagos.
“It’s bad enough that my husband is angry at me and refuses to come here, my own family is making me feel like shit. I just want to start crying now.”
A chorus of loud voices begged her not to cry. And like a scene from a movie, Archibong showed up out of nowhere. She ran into his arms, and all was well with the world again.
They ate, they talked, they shared jokes, and even had moments of unusual silence until someone remembered a story or another joke. I kept on with my CCTV footage, finding nothing odd.
The day went by without any type of drama from my family. Well, except for that one time, I heard Victoria speaking to Jethro about his girlfriend in a tone that was almost going hostile if Idris hadn’t stepped in. Or that time when I caught Yohan and some masseuse in the spa fucking in an awkward position in the storeroom during one of my security sweeps. Other than those, everything seemed perfect.
Dinnertime came and Victoria insisted that we all had to dress up. It was the main event for Idris’ birthday. The table stretched to the end of the world and was teeming with all manner of cuisines. I was not in the mood for any dress-ups. Earlier we had all worn matching Ankara outfits for a four-hour long photo shoot. Tomorrow some of us were going snorkeling while the lily-livered cruised along the coast in a boat. Afterwards, we would sit like a nice, little family and watch a bunch of thespians act out a play and dance for us. It was all tiring, to be honest. I couldn’t wait to return to my normal routine.
Nonetheless, I wore something beautiful for dinner. A little black dress was always a classic. I didn’t forget the other classic too – a pair of comfy white sneakers.
I was there before everyone else. One by one, they came filing in, and with them came the noise. When everyone was accounted for, Victoria got on her feet and clinked her glass of wine.
“This toast is to the one and only man who has my heart. We’ve been through hell and back, and also been through other men and women…”
“Too much information,” Yohan said in a cough.
“But we stuck it out. Idris is one heck of a man! Your father is gold.”
Her eyes twinkled as she spoke.
“He’s lived, and he will have many more years to live.”
“Eighty is a good year to croak.”
“Yohan, shut up,” Victoria scolded. “Now you’ll make me start my speech all over again. It has to be perfect.”
It was at that moment Pero, who had held his amusement all day, burst into laughter. He stuffed his mouth immediately with his hand.
“I’m sorry,” he said, pointing at his phone. “Something I saw here.”
It was Tanko’s turn to be tickled. Tsakani was embarrassed.
“Screw the speech,” Victoria said. A few people were relieved. “To my matchless husband of immeasurable worth! Happy birthday, Idris! Many more years to come!”
We raised our glasses to cheer him. He thanked us.
“I would say something, but I’m hungry, so let someone say a prayer and let’s eat.”
“I’ll pray!” Muna offered, hand raised.
“NO!” the table chorused. She shrank in her chair.
“I’ll pray,” Aviana, Yohan’s daughter, volunteered.
We bowed our heads, and in simple prayer, she blessed the meal and her grandfather.
“Amen,” we spoke in unison.
“Who gave birth to you?” Yohan said proudly.
“Clearly not you,” Victoria answered. “Eat, boy.”
The meal started in silence. And it felt like the best thing, but Muna recalled some incident with some online vendor that she needed to share. And that was how the discussion about fraudulent people selling things online came up. It was hearty and dotted with laughter. The atmosphere was filled with filial love. A husband dabbed food off a wife’s mouth here, a mother fed a child there… Everything was going well. I was about to hang off my boots of anxiety over the security when Jethro suddenly began to cough.
“Drink water,” Victoria instructed when the cough went on longer than it should. His girlfriend passed him a glass of water but he tipped it as his hand reached for it.
The cough had just gotten worse. Activity on the table paused. Debbie, seated beside him began to rub his back, but he kept coughing, pushing his chair backwards. None of us thought anything bad was happening at those initial seconds, until he made a retching sound mid-coughing and spurted out blood.
“Jesus!” Victoria sprang up, as did half of the table. “Jethro!”
She was hurrying towards him, but Archie was there first. Another spurt of blood and he was down on the floor, and that was when it hit me that it was an attack.
I think I must have jumped over the table to get to him. He had stopped coughing and he lay there in spasms as Archie attended to him.
Somebody had already called for an ambulance from the resort’s clinic.
“Archie, what’s going on?” Victoria cried.
“We have to get him out of here fast. We’re losing him!”
Yohan from nowhere lifted Jethro off the floor and started out in a run. The others followed, but I remained where I was. Not in shock. My eyes were on the table. One of the little boys was reaching for a casserole but I stopped him.
“Don’t touch anything!” I ordered. A female bodyguard that doubled as a nanny was standing by. I gave her instructions to take the children in and keep them locked.
My eyes were still on the table. What had Jethro taken that we all hadn’t? Who had poisoned him?
“What just happened?”
It was only then I noticed that Tanko was still seated.
“He was poisoned,” I answered.
“Tank?” I called. He looked dazed. “Tanko!”
He raised his head.
“I think you know it’s the same people. This is not the time to be shocked. This is the time to say what you know about them so that we can find them once and for all and end their fucking existence because shit just got real.”
“Tanko!” I hit the table and a small handbag fell to the floor. It was Jethro’s girlfriend’s. I picked it up and my instinct asked me to open it. I obeyed. There was nothing in it except her phone and a mouth spray. No one else had brought a purse to the table. I mean, all our rooms were a stroll away. Why bring a purse to carry a phone your hand can hold? And a mouth spray?
A fucking mouth spray?
And then it came back to me. The moment when she had muttered something to Jet and he laughed and then she had discreetly used the mouth spray on him. The moment she had poisoned him.
I recalled her being jittery all through. I had thought she was nervous being around us. But I had been wrong. Kash warned me, but I had not been vigilant, and now my brother was going to die.