Jide Martins weighed his phone in his right hand, tapping it against the open palm of his left hand. He was lost in thought as he stared into space absent minded. Jide was contemplating making the call he knew he had to make, when the phone in his hand vibrated and started playing Gongo Aso by 9ice. He became distracted by the noise of the phone and stared sharply at the irritant, wondering if he should answer it or not.
Jide placed the phone on the table beside him and rose up. He started pacing the room slowly as the song played out on his phone. He was still in the same room where he had received the trio of Segun, Justin and Ugochi. It felt like a lifetime ago since he saw those three, but it had only been a few hours. The problem was a whole lot had happened in that time. Now, as he stood in his sitting room pacing, he wondered if he had done the right thing by saving his friend – Segun, and by extension Ugochi. Jide couldn’t be sure, and he continued pacing, his head bowed.
The phone vibrated again, startling him this time, as the vibration shook the table and rendered demonic acoustics. Jide hissed, then crossed the room and answered the call. ‘Speak!’ He glared.
‘Mission complete sir. The targets have been neutralised and fed to the fishes.’
Jide mulled the information he had just received for a few seconds. ‘You’re sure they’re out? Certain?’ He was unconvinced.
‘Yup. Very. You can rest assured. Besides no one can trace the crime back to you. It was a perfect job, if I say so myself.’
‘Thank you, as usual. Your money will be wired to your account. I’ll let you know when I need your service again. For now, you can retire.’ Jide said stroking the assassins ego. He had no intention of paying this time.
‘Okay, I’ll expect the alert. Talk to you soon.’ He cut the connection.
Jide stared at his phone for a few seconds more. The stupid assassin needed to know that there was no way he was getting paid. No way. He dropped the phone and resumed his walk. He had been at it five minutes, when another call came through. ‘Dang!’ He cursed, ‘now what?’ Jide moved to the phone, saw that the number was blocked, then answered it. He had a fair guess of who it was that was calling.
‘Now that housekeeping’s complete, can we start getting out the freebies? We wouldn’t want our guests thinking that we’re cheap hosts now would we?’ The voice on the phone said.
Jide shrugged. ‘You want me to move ahead? I thought the plan was to give it twenty four hours? What’s the rush?’
‘Let’s just say that our guests would like their refreshment earlier than expected. And if we don’t break out the wine now, the party would be over before we even started. So, initiate the damn protocol. Make it rain.’ The line clicked.
Jide held the phone away from his face and stared at the irritating device. He felt like smashing it on the floor but held his peace. Damn the Gatekeepers for their antsy behaviour. He should have turned them away when he accepted their proposal and decided to work with them to bring down Akeem. His jealousy of the other hack had tainted his otherwise impeccable judgment causing him to not see that he was being used.
Absent mindedly, he walked to the laptop on the desk and started running programs. The beginning of the end was about to commence.
Nureni put his phone in his pocket and hissed. For three years, he had worked for Jide Martins, doing all kinds of work for the reclusive man. They had never met, seldom spoke but he always got his payment upon the execution of the job handed to him. Somehow, this time around, things didn’t sit right with him. He had gone from being a guy that used knives and locally made pistols to execute his targets to the more sophisticated Walther PPK handgun. What was good for Mr Bond is good for him too Nureni rationalized. He started walking towards a car on the deserted road.
Nureni couldn’t shake the feeling as he got into his car. A deep sense of foreboding overwhelmed him. That had only happened to him once, back in secondary school when he started chasing a girl about the school. He had finally got her alone and after a steamy foreplay, he was about having sex with her there in the deserted class when he started getting the dark feeling. At first he ignored it, but as he stripped the girl of her panties, he was overwhelmed by an inexplicable feeling of stasis.
Nureni stood still for almost a minute, member turgid, girl naked, and all was set for execution. Then whatever kept him still released him, and he found his trousers were wet. She laughed at him dressed up. That was the last time he saw her. She transferred from their school, or so it was told. It was a year later that the truth came to light. Rukia had contracted HIV/AIDS and somehow, she knew. Instead of dying alone, she gave up herself to anyone who as much as smiled at her.
Nureni hit the steering hard, got out of the car and started walking down the road. Lekki to Ajah expressway at 11.30p.m was always deserted. Thank God for the foresight of the ruling group who decided to put up road lights that actually worked on the stretch. It would be a shame if the lights were as epileptic as the other Lagos lights. He had barely walked two hundred metres away from the car when it exploded in a huge ball of fire.
Nureni ducked forward as the air from the explosion pushed him away. He turned around and stared at his burning car. His eyes stung as a tear escaped and ran down his cheek. So, that’s the package he was supposed to receive? His buy out payment was death? Rage began to well in him as he stood there observing the burning car. Someone was going to pay big time, and no currency would satiate the anger he had brimming. Blood had to be spilled. He crossed to the other side of the road.
Jide knew he had to carry out two operations before he commenced the refreshment operation. He sighed as he punched his keypad and pressed enter. The first blip disappeared, then he performed the same operation and pressed enter again, the second blip disappeared from the screen. He shuddered. Lives had been lost that night, and all that the Gatekeepers were concerned about was their money. He felt like a fool.
Jide started the application to quietly transfer the money out of the account that Akeem had placed it in the Bahamas. He was done in less than ten minutes. The money had been transferred back into several Nigerian accounts. Then, he added his insurance policy. That took him almost twenty minutes to set up since he had not thought of it earlier. He shut down the laptop on completion of the process, then he rose up and stretched. He started pacing again as the deep sense of foreboding overwhelmed him again.
Jide sat down and dozed off. He had been on his chair for an indeterminable amount of time when he heard a strange noise. He got up slowly, and checked his wristwatch, the time was a few minutes before one a.m. What had roused him, he wondered, then he stood up and stretched.
‘Please remain standing.’ A voice said from the far end of the sitting room. Jide froze, shocked that he had company in his house. He turned around slowly as he tried to see who it was.
‘Nureni!’ His voice was almost a scream.
‘Please remain silent, or you’ll force my hand. I don’t intend dispatching you in a fiery ball as you intended for me. I mean, I had time to think about it on my way here, you wanna send me to hell in a fiery furnace. It’s almost remarkable.’ Nureni smiled as he levelled his gun at Jide.
‘Please, I can explain, don’t kill me.’ Jide’s hands were raised as he went down on his knees. ‘It wasn’t my intention, I didn’t want to do it, they made me, please, have mercy.’
‘Good for you, I’m in a magnanimous mood, so please, explain away.’ Nureni waved the gun slightly as he crossed his right leg over his left leaning forward in the chair he was seating on.
Jide spilled it all. Told the assassin all that he knew about the Gatekeepers and the money he was helping them launder via the internet. ‘You were expendable, that’s why you had to go.’
Nureni sat there mulling over all he had heard. ‘So I’m to believe that the guys I offed on the water were the good guys? I always thought you were an upstanding guy, but this.’ He waved his gun again and stood up as he started approaching Jide. Just then the unexpected happened. Loud thuds were heard in the compound, as though someone had broken earthen ware pots.
Nureni stared away briefly but realised his mistake almost immediately. He didn’t see Jide spring forward, didn’t brace himself for the impact of the force generated by Jide’s propelling momentum. He let out a cry as Jide’s shoulder rammed into his lower abdomen, crushing his left rib on impact and driving him back as both men fell to the floor. The gun discharged a round as it fell out of Nureni’s hand and slid under the seatee.
Jide got his wish, he sat astride Nureni and rained down blows on the assassin’s face. Nureni took the beating as he tried to wriggle his hands free from under Jide. His legs jerked as he proppelled his body trying to break free from his trapped position. Jide knowing he couldn’t allow the assassin any space kept punching hard. Slowly, the fight left Nureni as his body lay supine under Jide.
‘Shhh,’ Akeem hushed Justin. They had broken into Jide’s house but obviously inexperienced, Justin had not broken his fall and his weight had made a loud noise as his body impacted the ground. Akeem had turned and hushed him then, slowly, the duo had approached the house, then they heard the gun shot. As well as the neighbouring houses.
They slowed their pace, hiding behind a pillar in the house as they watched for any signs of movement. Nothing. Akeem led the way again, motioning to Justin to stay behind him. They got to the door and found that it was not locked. They went in, scanning the sitting room as they cautiously entered the house. The place was in disarray and Justin barely recognised it as the sitting room he had left few hours earlier.
‘Help me.’ A voice whispered.
Without thinking, Justin and Akeem approached the sound. They found Jide on the floor lying in the pool of his own blood. Jide had been badly lacerated and had multiple stab wounds on his hands and legs. ‘Help me,’ he said again spitting out blood as he struggled to breathe. Justin stretched out his hand, but Akeem beat it off.
‘It’s not enough that you escaped death? You wanna put another target on your head, see if you can cheat death the second time?’ Akeem admonished.
Chastised, Justin backed away from Jide. ‘Who did this to you?’
Jide tried lifting his hand but couldn’t move the muscles. He moved his head and indicated the back door through which Nureni had escaped. Justin started rising to go check it out when Akeem pulled him back again.
‘Calm down dude. Besides, if you encounter the person who did this, you probably won’t fare better. So, focus.’ Akeem said, then turned to Jide. ‘What did the Gatekeepers ask of you?’
Jide’s expression went blank. His mind was struggling to grasp how these two were alive. Nureni had reported them dead, and since Nureni didn’t miss, he had believed the assassin, unfortunately, as was the case with Nureni, these two had also refused to die. He had thought he was getting helped by the police, now he knew he would drown in his own blood before any help got to him. He closed his eyes slowly. Better to die peacefully than to suffer through the transition.
‘Hey, hey, talk to me.’ Akeem slapped Jide’s face trying to keep his competitor awake. Jide’s eyes remained shut. Akeem felt the urge to punch Jide, instead he felt Jide’s pulse, it was faint. ‘Shit,’ he swore. ‘This guy will die in less than two minutes, we need to get out of here.’
‘Not before we search his house.’ Justin said, resolute: he stood up and started walking to the laptop on the table. As if to disagree, police sirens rent the air. ‘Shit, shit! What are we going to do now?’ He panicked as he grabbed Jide’s laptop and turned to Akeem.
‘We follow the assassin’s trail and hope we never encounter him.’ Akeem said already close to the door. Jide’s body jerked as Justin passed by it. Justin paused, observed the dying man and felt pity for him. What a waste of a good life, he shuddered, then ran after Akeem as they made their way out the back door into a side alley that connected Jide’s getaway car park. There were two cars and two power bikes in the garage. The keys were in the ignition and both Justin and Akeem paused for a while, each man nodded and they went for the bikes. Time to beat a hasty retreat.
The policemen broke into the house, found the gateman gagged and tied at his post. They raced into the house barging in without any recourse to tactics or finesse. They found Jide lying on the floor, his head hung askance. They didn’t need to go close before they knew that the owner of the house was dead. Damn, thought the sergeant that led the assault. This corpse had ruined his weekend.
© Derin Gbadebo 2013