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Happy New Month Lovelies, welcome to May. 

EPISODE 9

it about 2pm that Thursday Richard drove to pick Cain at the airport. Richard was wearing a blue shirt, blue jeans and black boots; however, he did not seem to be casually dressed. Indeed, in spite of the jeans, there was an air of formality about his outfit. He wore those clothes better than most men wore suits. The sleeves of his shirt had been gracefully pressed and creased. His open collar stood up straight and stiff, as if it had been starched and ironed, with Richard still wearing it––like his shirt, his jeans seemed to have been carefully tailored. His low-heeled boots shone almost like patent leather. Richard had always been compulsively neat. His sartorial physique, however, might pose a serious challenge to the apparel industries.

As he was driving, he allowed his thought to drift to Abigail again; he could picture her smiling faces, the funny way she looked when angry, and she had a sense of humour. He would give anything to share his days and his long, troubled life with a woman like that. Laughter was usually a function of sharing––an observation, a joke, a moment. You don’t laugh a lot when you’re always alone; and if you do, that probably meant you should make arrangement for a long stay in the nearest asylum.

The sky was calm and clear. Rain was forecast for tomorrow, though no forecast could be trusted in Lagos. The afternoon sun blazed beyond the shadows of the vehicle Richard was driving. At the airport, Richard got out of the jeep, hooked his thumbs into his belt loops and stood staring up at the blue sky, feeling the mild sun on his face. A hawk glided in a widening gyre, a dark-feathered bird with a hunt for prey. He was so striking in appearance that travellers’ eyes were drawn to him as though he were a celebrity they did not quite recognize, or a handsome Nollywood star whose name escaped them.

A rich ugly-looking man sat with a laptop in his jeep, working the keyboard and the mouse-attached, fixated on the screen. Maybe he was checking out his company shipping schedules, or playing an internet game, or browsing a X-rated site, perhaps checking his Twitter, You tube or Facebook accounts.
The long double-lined circular drive was filled with dark limousines and expensive cars––Jaguars, Bentleys, Porsches, and a smattering of Lincolns and Hummers. Another driveway was filled with parked cars––Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, and a Volks.

Richard leaned against the vehicle and waited for the arrival of the aircraft, he waited for about fifty minutes before he spotted the aeroplane cruising down from the bright beyond, it came down on the runway with with loud screeches of its tyres as if it was a meteor shower right down from the outer-space. Normally, Cain was supposed to be one of the last people to get off the plane, so that his driver wouldn’t have to go through the rigor of searching for him in the crowd. But Richard knew his boss better; Mr. Cain Martins wasn’t one to obey the normal protocol of reason. So, Richard became more surprised when he spotted Cain alighting from the Bellview Airline; he was actually the last person coming down the steps. Cain was expensively dressed. His brown suit, his white silk shirt and polka spotted bow tie gave him the appearance of a well-to-do dandy, when Richard saw Cain peeked at his watch, he expected it to be a gold Rolex, but from where Richard stood, it appeared to be an old clunky digital; an object somewhat in cotradistinction to the rest of his apparel, which did not surprise Richard much––his boss was obviously a psycho.

Cain smiled when he spotted Richard, a smile which was always ugly to Richard. The smile always seemed to be telling him–‘I’m going to crush you like killing a mouse with a sledge hammer.’

Performing the civic duty of a good driver, Richard went to his boss and collected the suitcases he was carrying; he neither greeted nor complimented his boss. The hatchet each party was wielding was sharp indeed; each man was plotting to play the game in the way he knew how. But it seemed the favourable side of the die had been cast on the boss. Richard noticed that his boss looked unusually contented, satisfied––as if he had no problem whatsoever in the whirling world. Cain got in the passenger’s seat behind the driver’s and Richard went behind the vehicle to open the booth, he deposited the suitcases and was about to close the booth when he decided suddenly to check the contents of the cases. The first he opened contained Cain’s clothing.

“Holy Jesus!” he exclaimed under his breath. Richard had stopped going to church, even if he might go to hell for that, he didn’t care. But sometimes, he found himself using divine names and those of other holy saints of the Bible whenever he was shocked or in pain. He made a sign of a cross; he was suddenly a devout Catholic again. The second suitcase contained money––Nigerian currencies in a thousand denominations filled the case to the brim. Richard didn’t exactly fall to the climax, and no cartoon stars swarmed around his head, but he was rocked. He had never seen so much money in his life. How much is in here? Four million? Seven? Or more? Having the fear of Cain getting impatient and suspecting he had been rummaging through his property; Richard closed the suitcase, then the booth. The overhead sun beat down on him as if he were an egg in need of frying. He got in the driver’s seat, and from the back reflector he saw Cain skimming through the pages of a glossy business magazine and smiling contentedly as if the paper contained nothing but good words. He saw the old man grin and display the peculiar arrangement of his teeth, which were straight and even, but had small irregular spaces between them as though they had once belonged to a smaller person. Richard decided his boss did not know, or Cain knew but pretended he didn’t. Richard turned the ignition and drove the jeep out of the parking lot.

There were dozens of strugglers, dressed mainly in expensive clothes. Taxi stopped and started after picking lone travellers; LovePeddler made attempts to find profitable beds; lovers embraced their safe spouses who had just returned, while some were giving goodbye kisses to their loved ones who would be boarding the next available flights. Richard’s mind was unsettled as he drove his boss home; something very bad was going to happen soon. It’s in the air, he could feel it–– Cain is planning a dangerous method. A proverb rang instantly in his head––He who sups with the devil must use a long spoon.

* * * * *

There is fire on the mountain
And nobody seems to be on the run
There is fire on the mountain-top
And no one is a’ running…

On the small table in Richard’s room sat a portable CD player and two small speakers. Asa’s record of Fire on the Mountain blared from the speakers. It was Friday, the seventh of August––and the time was about half past ten in the night. As usual, Richard had picked Cain from the office at around six in the evening and he had dropped him home at exactly 7pm. Now, he was on the bed half-listening to the admonishing rhythm of the great Asa. Friday had always carried the worst night of the week for him, but he didn’t really know why. Maybe he disliked Friday because most people dressed up and went out to dinner or dancing or to a show to celebrate the passage of another workweek––while Richard found nothing to celebrate about having endured another seven days in the prison that was his life, and the devil that was Cain. Most of the time, he was always conscious and grateful of an accelerated passage of time. Days flashed, and even weeks seemed condensed, so that Fridays succeeded Mondays, and it was an effort to recall what had happened between.

At about twenty minutes later Richard heard a hard knock on his door. Knocks didn’t always sound on his door, the last knock was about three weeks ago, and it had been Abigail standing on the threshold with tears filling her eyes. The knock came again.

“Coming.” Richard answered. He was lying half-Unclad on his bed. He got up and struggled into a casual piece of clothing. He could feel his heart starting to race; he had wanted so much to get closer to her again. But the last thing he needed right now, he decided, was one more problem. In fact, he was not looking forward to another slap, although he was not really sure that he would not again do what had warranted the first slap. He reached the door, went through the process of unlocking, unbolting and unfastening before he finally opened the door. He had expected to find Abigail again, but it was Cain with his ugly grin standing there. Cain was unusually dressed in a black overcoat which draped down to his ankle; a pair of black trousers, black sandals, and a black hat covered his head. He looked like an undertaker.

Richard eyed his boss’s outfit and quipped, “Who died?”

Cain’s obvious insobriety, however, disallowed his finding offence from the rhetorical sarcasm.

“Disappointed? It’s not Abigail this time.” Sang Cain, a strong odour of adult beverages emitted from his mouth.

“What can I do for you––sir?” asked Richard, slightly rudely.

“Get dressed, we’re going out.”

“What did you just say, sir? Where––”

“Shut up and get dressed, I said we’re going out, or do I have to kick you to the garage?”

Anger rose to Richard’s face, he stood looking at his boss wrathfully.

“Don’t stare at me like that, you damned oaf!” Cain cursed, “You’re wasting my time.”

The moment had come, he could feel it again. An ugly plan was about to be executed––the game is starting, both knew, and they were ready to play it to the finish. Both men continued staring at each other, they were communicating with their eyes––challenging––throwing down the gauntlets.

Richard returned into his room to redress and prepare, shutting the door at Cain’s face. About two minutes later, he came out dressed in a simple shirt and a pair of trousers, with sandals. He walked straight to the garage with Cain close behind him. Richard got in the jeep and Cain got in beside him. This puzzled Richard, because Cain had never sat beside him in the jeep before, he always sat behind him.

“Where exactly are we going?” asked Richard.

“Just drive.”

The gatekeeper came with a faked confused expression on his face, “Are you going out, sir?” he asked.

“No, I’m going to bed.” Cain lashed angrily.

“We have less than two hours before midnight.”

“Will you keep that mouth of yours shut, old man? Let’s face it, when did the tail start wagging the dog? I know what I’m going to do, you’ll be retiring tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“No, you’re not; you’ll soon be, I assure you, old pal.” He turned to Richard. “Can we go now?”

The gatekeeper shook his head slowly and smiled at how ridiculous Cain’s threat was to him now as he headed to open the gate, and Richard drove steadily out of the compound, turning right down the street.

Old Chima waited till he could no more hear the faint sound of the jeep as it sped down the road curve, then he made the call.

It was early morning at about six-thirty. The thin ghostly trails of vapour were left behind from a drizzle that had come and gone during the night. The fifty-three years old Michael Kish was awakened by the persistent ringing of his phone. He squinted to see the time: 6.32am. The shrill ring tone of the Nokia assaulted his ears and interrupted whatever dream he might have been having. The curtains which covered the windows rendered the room dark. Michael fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on.

He picked up the phone.

“Hello?” he said in a voice that sounded like someone had kicked him in the throat.

“Mr. Kish?” a man’s voice asked.

“Yes?”

“I hope I have not awoken you.”

“No, you haven’t.” Kish said, wondering if it was a question or a statement. “How do I honour this reveille?”

“Sir, you need to come now.”

“Who is this?”

“My name’s Eze Chima, the gatekeeper of Mr. Cain Martins––”

“What’s the matter? Why are you calling me?”

“There’s something very wrong, sir.” The caller paused, “Mr. Martins actually asked me to call you. Please, you need to come now.”

“Okay, calm down. Tell me, what is going on there? Where is Cain?”

“I can’t answer any question now, sir. You need to come.”

“What about Abigail, is she okay? Where is the driver?”

“Like I said, sir, you need to come. I’m told not to answer any question. The situation here is very serious.”

“Okay, listen to me––can you hear me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What is really going on? Please tell me the truth.”

“There’s a policeman here, sir.”

“A policeman? What is a policeman doing there?”

“I’m told not to answer any question. Just come, sir. Mr. Martins asked me to call you.”

“What’s happening there for Christ’s sake?”

Another pause on the caller’s side. Kish was growing out of patience.

“Hello––are you there?” Kish asked, “Hello?”

“There has been a murder, sir. Come quickly.”

The call was terminated.
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