Dear villagers, thatDarkBetty and I especially appreciate your support for The Decades II project. It was a huge success and you made it so. Thanks for telling friends and family about the tales we tell around the fire that burns in the town hall.
Remember @edgothboy? He shared the thriller Project S.E.E.K. The Hit with us just before The Decades Project II began. We promised more art from him and we deliver on our promises.
Here’s Deflect. It’s a bit long but be patient, you should love it.
“Shut the door behind you.” she says. There’s something dangerous in her voice that makes him swallow the off-hand comment he was about to make. Maybe a brothel madam not a prostitute, he amends in his head. He straightens his dashiki and takes the visitor’s seat. They stay like this for nearly twenty minutes, the rhythmic tapping of her foot against the steel bedframe punctuating the silence. Abruptly she she swings off the bed, startling Saheed and goes to lock the door. She plops onto the bed and crosses her legs in a very unprofessional manner. From underneath the pillow she extracts a manila folder. In it are a 9mm pistol, a voice recorder and a sheaf of official looking papers.
“Oya, we’ve wasted enough time. Let’s get this done and dusted.”
Saheed meaningly turns his gaze to the door. She is quick on the uptake.
“Expecting anyone else?”
Saheed replies in broken, yoruba affected english. “Yes. The men who I am supposed to selling my ‘information’ to.”
The woman shrugs. “No men. Just me.”
Saheed gives an her incredulous stare. “I will only talking to your oga. I cannot doing business with small small girls.”
The woman points to the door. “Then you can ‘leaving’.”
Saheed stands up to leave then his eyes zero in on a small rectangle of paper he’d missed earlier. It’s a signed cheque, addressed to him. The other than his name and the signature, the cheque is blank. Even he has watched enough American films to know what a blank cheque is. He slowly slides back into his chair and steeples his fingers, trying for a disaffected look and failing miserably.
He cocks his head in its direction. “Is that cheque my own?”
“Maybe.” She replies cautiously.
Saheed’s practically salivating at this point. “Why do you not write the money inside it?”
“Because how much you get, depends on how much your story ‘inspires’ (she makes air quotes around the inspires) me.”
Saheeds rubs his hands in anticipation. It is more than he’d hoped for.
She pushes the cheque under the pillow and whips out a ball point pen. He frowns and reluctantly stretches out his hand for it. She raises an eyebrow.
“That’s why there’s a tape recorder. I’m just taking notes.”
Saheed sighs in relief. He’s always hated writing, it is almost impossible to feign ignorance in text. he loves signatures though because most times, they meant money was coming in.
“Where do I start?”
She gestures for him to wait and switches on the recorder.
“Tell me about yourself.”
“Saheed Saworoide. 31 years. My mama is from Ibadan, my papa is from Ondo. I come to Lagos with my mama’s sister. I use to manage girls for Alhaja. Before I use to sell igbo at Oniru beach. Before that I use to pickpocket at Obalende. Before…”
“So you’re a career criminal?” she concludes. he nods.
“Level of formal education?”
“Secondary. I didn’t like it.”
“please state the nature of your association to the secret service?”
“I want to be selling information to the SSS.”
“What kind of information?”
In that moment Saheed wishes he’d brought along one of the more educated girls in his harem. With every question, he’s found it harder to formulate a response that doesn’t expose his literacy.
“I know many secret things about Mallam Bash. Many things that he will kill me if I tell.”
The agent makes clucking sound. “Yet here you are.”
“People didn’t last when they are working for Bash,” he gives a crooked smile. “I am taking Insurance.”
“Please explain the circumstances that occured to make you privy to this potentially volatile information?”
She pauses the recorder. “I know you understand what I just said. Just stop this idiotic act and answer the fucking question.”
She resumes recording and repeats the question. He’s sighs almost imperceptibly, coming here might not have been a good idea after all. He drops the illiterate ruse and gives a surprisingly intelligent response.
“I was recruited by Alhaja about three years ago. No, she never gave a first name and yes, I know better than to ask. She liked how efficient I was with my marijuana business and thought my concepts would work better with girls. I negotiate the deals, keep the girls supplied with weed, booze and condoms and in return I get a 40% commission and I get to break in the virgins.”
He pauses, waiting for a response. The bit about virgins isn’t true, he said it to get a rise out of her. All she does is fish out a cigarette pack from her jacket pocket. She offers him one and lights it herself.
“Go on.” she urges.
“I’ve always known Alhaja reported to someone else but as far as it didn’t affect me personally, I didnt bother myself with the details. Two months ago, I got summoned. They sent a car with tinted windows, blindfolded me and put a gun to my head. We drove around for at least an hour, then went to Badagry.”
She interrupts him. “How are you sure it was Badagry?”
“The driver stopped to refuel. the attendant spoke the Badagry dialect of Yoruba.”
“Earplugs.” She muttered to herself. Saheed pretends not to hear.
“I met Mallam Bash for the first time that day. Apparently Alhaja had just been ‘transferred’. She was getting too independent. Mallam Bash knew I did all the real work in Alhaja’s outfit and we are making three times as much as she did before I joined so he offered to let me take over. I accepted.”
The agent looks up from what she’s writing. “Can you give me an accurate description of Bashar Ibn Jaleel’s appearance?.”
Saheed lies smoothly. “I said I met him not that I saw him, they didn’t remove my blindfold the entire time I was there.”
“So you aren’t completely sure it was Bashar Ibn Jaleel you saw?”
Saheed shakes his head. “I swear on my mother’s grave it was him.” His mother is probably bickering with her neighbors right now but she doesn’t need to know that. “I’ve talked to him many times. It was his voice.”
She is still skeptical. “Say I believe you. I still don’t see how that helps me. This may have been a bad business call.”
Saheed rubs his hand together, this is the part he’s been waiting for. “What if I say I know the identities of Mallam Bash’s daughters.”
The pen the agent is writing with snaps in half. She sets aside the broken pen and the clip board and sit forward on the bed till she barely centimetres from Saheed. She shoves the recorder directly under him.
“Tell me everything you know about them.” She hisses.
“About a month ago I started getting these special requests from Bash, to help him get these exotic girls access to special clients. My contacts from my weed selling days still come in handy. Plus you won’t imagine how many high class hotels need girls and sometimes boys from us, discreetly of course.
“I wouldn’t have suspected but every client I hook them up with either mysteriously disappears or is found dead. Eventually somebody is going to connect them to me, and the police is going to come for me so I might as well win while I’m ahead.”
“How many of such girls has Bash sent to you?”
“Do you have any other evidence about these girls other than your story?”
“I’m not stupid, I have a picture but I won’t tell you where it is till I get the cheque.”
“How much do you want for the picture?”
“I want #50,000 for my story, #100,000 for the picture.”
“Is it nearby?”
He pauses. “No.”
She cackles. “You’re getting #80,000 after I see the picture and nothing for your story. You’re a very bad story teller and you tried to trick me.”
Saheed feels stupid. He should have gotten this stupid girl with the prostitute body to sign the cheque before he opened his mouth to say anything. Now she’s trying to steal from him. Well he still had the picture, it was getting clammy where he hid it. Good thing he had wrapped it in cellophane first.
“Sign the cheque or I am leaving with my picture. You can’t scam me anymore.”
“As you wish.”
She reaches under the pillow and draws out the handgun. Before Saheed can utter a word she pulls him to her and empties the clip in his chest, his wet blood spattering all over her expensive suit. She wipes her gun on his Dashiki as he gurgles to death and drapes his body over the chair. A quick pat down reveals an envelope sellotaped to his thigh. she tears his trousers open to get to it. The picture inside is a vivid photograph of a group of smiling girls. Four heads are circled, Nafis, Zuweira, Amma and Leema. She extracts a phone from her blood soaked jacket and speed dials a number. It is picked up on first ring.
“Babu, the job is done. Your daughters need to be brought to order. I won’t clean their messes again. I’m the eldest, not a nanny.”
“Noted. Any thing else?” comes a bemused reply.
“You’re buying me a new suit.”
She disconnects the call and shimmies out of the blood stained clothes. She uses the bed sheet to clean the residual specks of blood on her face and hair and slips on a pair of scrubs hidden underneath the bed. She throws the tape recorder, gun and phone into a satchel and gingerly steps over Saheed’s body which has now slumped to the floor.
“Oh shit! I just missed them didn’t I?”
“Who?” The nurse asks.
“Two doctors, tall? In black suits and white overcoats?”
The nurse’s confusion contorts into a grimace. “Those ones are yours? Hmmph! They are so rude.”
Hakida raises her hands in mock surrender. “Na so I see am oh. Anyway they’ll kill me because I got here late. I don’t have the strength to face their wahala this evening. Can I drop this here for them, please?”
The nurse shrugs and Hakida hands over the envelope Saheed’s picture came in. The tape recorder is in it. Most of the conversation has been erased, except for the most important part, Saheed’s assassination. Babu likes to leave souvenirs. She makes her way to a car with missing number plates and a waiting driver. She slides into the seat and the car drives off just as the klaxons begins to ring, signalling hospital lockdown.