Rays of morning sunlight filtered through the small gap between the window blinds onto the bare torso sprawled facedown upon the king-sized bed. Save for a pair of black boxer shorts, the sleeping man was naked. His back was fleshy but not firm, the skin was pitch black- though it had a healthy glow that signified an acquaintance with luxury- as his few hairs that remained on his balding head. The room was obviously a hotel judging from its expensive look, orderly and Spartan furnishings devoid of any personal effects save for a pair of trousers and shirts hanging on the arm of an ornately carved chair facing a dressing table. On the dressing table lay a Rolex watch, an expensive-looking silver lighter with Godfather engraved on its body, a bulging crocodile skin wallet and a white telephone. The room was quiet save for the slight humming of the air-condition set to full-blast to counter the heat of the dry season. The phone rang out loud and the body on the bed stirred, ruffling the white sheets. He dragged himself to a sitting position, clambered off the bed’s edge and staggered sleepily towards the direction of the telephone. By the time he got to the table, it had stopped ringing. He hissed in disappointment, systematically drawing in air through closed teeth and pursed lips, – in the characteristic manner of Nigerians- and was about staggering back to the bed when the phone rang out again. He picked up the receiver in time, and leaning heavily upon the dressing table with his other free arm.
His face looked more young and fleshy, placing him somewhere within twenty-nine. The palms of his hand appeared soft and white, as with those not used to hard work. The golden ring on his left index finger threw back the light that fell on it.
“Hello” he said into the receiver in a sleep induced voice and then paused to listen to the caller at the other end. His eyes gleamed with alertness as he ordered “let him up”, and returned the receiver in its cradle before dropping exhaustively into the armchair. Seconds later, the door opened and another fellow his age breezed in unceremoniously with a careless gait, a half-drunk bottle of Hennessy in his hand.
“Still sleeping Bruno?”, he asked
Bruno just sighed, scratched his crotch and yawned loud and long, then rubbed away the tears that the yawning exercise had triggered.
“Man, Ricky I was stoned last night, I guess I just have to lie in bed still for the better part of today”
“No way man. You have got to shake it off” Bruno vetoed, “take a swig to get you going while I fill you in on matters arising” he said handing him the half filled bottle of liquor. He waited patiently for Bruno to take two long swigs of the liquor, contorting his face as it burned his chest on its way into his stomach, watering his eyes, setting his blood on fire and clearing the sleep from his face.
“What’s up?” Bruno asked, wiping his mouth with the back of his right palm.
“They busted Willy and burnt his three tankers”
“Who is ‘they’?” Bruno asked apprehensively.
“The soldiers guarding the pipe lines”
“What? I mean what is wrong with that Willy guy? He demanded for nine hundred grand with which to bribe the soldiers guarding the pipeline. Did I not give not a dime less of the bloody sum to him? Now what is this I’m hearing?” he asked, directing the question to none in particular. Ricky took the cue that it was a rhetorical question and kept silent.
“I’ve invested much in this venture and I won’t bear this loss. I am expecting my twelve million naira returns on this investment. This isn’t the first time I am investing in oil bunkering. He must have been greedy to not have greased the palms of the authorities enough, the stupid bastard. However Willy gets back my money isn’t my business, but he must return the principal and the full interest as agreed. Period.” He paused, fuming “I think I will have to send a message across to him tonight so he gets my point.”
“Your father wants to see you immediately” Ricky interrupted. The news mellowed the infuriated Bruno.
“I don’t know, but he sounded pissed. You will have to go the government house first and now”
“I think I will go have a shower first. That old man makes me feel uneasy. He never likes any thing about me, he doesn’t like the world I have created and hates the fact that I am the godfather. The funny thing is that he doesn’t realize that we have the same personality, that we are both criminals; he a senator that loots the country’s treasury to foreign accounts in Switzerland and Cyprus, in buying mansions in the United States and the Arab Emirates. Do you realize that he is the worse of the two of us? He plunders the land but what is my crime? I am just a businessman who operates on the simple principle of demand and supply, I pay them to look the other way while I take the oil which of course as a citizen I’m entitled to its proceeds, and supply it at a cheaper rate to oil dealers whom the government burden down with taxes and unfair regulations. I distribute substances which the government have pushed underground to the people who need them and are willing to pay for them. All these and yet he spites me, just imagine the kettle calling the pot black”
“Go take your bath, you can continue with purging your conscience in the car” Ricky joked, “you let your old man set you on edge too often”
“One more of your attitude and I will remind you that you are talking to the godfather” Bruno threatened lightly
Bruno sauntered to the bathroom glad that of all the achievements of recent times, he had a friend and a confidant in Ricky, a friendship that had budded just a few years back in East London.
Like every man that met good fortunes late in life, Senator Hendricks Esu was hastily left behind the life of a hustling small time lawyer, to embrace the new life of a politician of The Federal Republic. He savoured with relish all that the new status has on offer; immunity, pleasure, power and respect, he was never economical in the leverage of these advantage. A long time ago, he had watched the years come and go with the hopes of ever making it big as a career lawyer. He had taken a silent oath never to see his only child Bruno be a partaker of the failed life he had. Though he never mentioned it, he blamed his woes on the government that governed blindly without any systems in place, without any form of blueprint. He watched successive administrations ascend the government unprepared, grappled with the wheels for eight years and just when they were getting a head on where to veer the country towards, the new election year would come. He resolved that there wasn’t any future for the country for as far as he could see and so he had scraped, borrowed and defrauded to send his son to faraway England to study and hopefully settle down. Things never went as planned, not exactly at least; some time into his undergraduate program, he had defaulted on the school fees payment and Bruno had lost his admission status. He was glad though that his boy had the good sense to remain in England even as an illegal resident. He heard the boy was dealing drugs and mingling with all sorts of lowly dregs of humanity. He spent sleepless nights over his fate and that of his boy, praying that he never got caught and locked up in a jail. Things turned out differently when the new government came to power, with Hubert Ine, his long lost friend being appointed minister for aviation. He was invited to be the man’s personal assistant. One thing led to another and he clambered up the ladder out of the hell of his life with such haste that in no time he became a public figure and a party faithful. Election years came and went and he became a senator of the Federal Republic. He had wanted his boy to remain abroad so he furnished him with a lot of money to start up afresh. The boy was doing well, everything was going according to his plans until his boy’s first visit to Nigeria after eight years. The celebrity status he was treated to while on his visit as the Senator’s son got to his head so much that he refused going back to ‘the life of a black common immigrant’. He was a prince in his country, what more could a man ask for? His father had threatened cutting off all his allowances should he remain in the country, but he was adamant and so he had remained in Nigeria away from his father’s reach for months. The Senator didn’t see him for months, but couldn’t shut his ears to whispered news of a very young aspiring and discreet boy whom you could rely upon for the best quality coke that you have ever snorted. His discretion was his stock-in-trade that distinguished him from other less subtle dealers that normally had scuffles with the agencies.
Senator Hendricks drained the second glass of whisky in one gulp, the uncertainty of anticipating whether Bruno would honour his summons was eating into his psyche. He reached for the nearly empty decanter on the low table before him to pour the last of the liquor into his glass when Tony his trusted aide- who still acted, looked and dressed boyish in smartly tailored suits despite his middle age-walked into the balcony through the ornately carved archway, his footfalls echoing on the glossy, fragile looking floor.
“He has arrived, your Excellency” he announced, standing before the Senator
“Usher the fool in at once” he ordered, his face contorted into a spiteful scorn
“Yes sir’ Tony bowed slightly and wheeled around to take his leave
“The plans haven’t changed. You know what to do. But make sure he doesn’t come in with any of his hounds” Senator Hendricks instructed, stopping Tony in his tracks
“Absolutely, your honour” he answered, resuming his exit.
The Senator composed himself in the few seconds before Bruno strolled in with a reckless gait
“Good morning Senator” he greeted, a slight grin playing on his face. He took the decanter on the table sipped its contents directly and replaced it on its place, swirling the liquor in his mouth before swallowing it.
“Hmmmm, I must confess, your taste for spirits is still superior to mine”. Then as if on second thoughts, he grabbed the decanter again by the neck and sipped from it, holding on to it. The scenery at play reminded one of a diplomatic mission involving a tiger and a hyena.
“Keep your sarcasm, you will be needing it at a much later time” the Senator retorted, “as of now, we have more pressing issues to address”
“And what would they be?”
“You think I missed you so much as to request for this meeting?” the Senator thundered, “if not for your recklessness, I wouldn’t have to lose the much I’m about to lose now for just watching your vulnerable back. So seat down and hear some sense!”
Bruno knew better to obey when his father lost touch of his usual diplomatic approach to issues. He leveled himself into the expensive-looking leather armchair from across the Senator.
The Senator breathed deeply, an attempt to keep calm, “I heard of the boy you shot at the mall yesterday”
Bruno’s lower lip hung loose in utter surprise for a fraction of a second, but he collected himself immediately. “he reneged on a deal we had, so I had to send a clear warning to every other potential associate I might have to do business with”
“And where else to do it but in the full glare of public view? You think your money is enough to buy you immunity from all recklessness? Boy you have seen nothing, and I think you have overplayed it this time. I see a storm brewing, and in no time, there will be a clamour for your head’
“I guess I will just lay low for some time until everything sorts of cools down” Bruno said resignedly
“And how and where do you intend ‘laying low’?” the Senator asked spat
“I have got contacts, very reliable ones. That shouldn’t bother you, it won’t be much of a big deal” he said boastfully
“Look at you” the senator mocked, gesturing at him with the fingers his open palm and his nose upturned in the typical Nigerian show of disgust, “what do you know of loyalty. When the heat gets too much and the pressure becomes suffocating, you will become too much of a liability and those your invaluable ‘contacts’ will exonerate themselves from you because you would have become damaged goods, as obnoxiously sticky as camel’s dung. This is Nigeria boy, everyone wants to climb up the social ladder at all cost, as such the nation becomes like the arena of a Roman amphitheatre and every ambitious fellow a gladiator. To survive, every imaginable tactics is constantly explored; betrayal, subterfuge, blackmail, backstabbing, greed… you name it”
Bruno heaved and laid back resignedly in the sofa. “You are making me feel like I just got diagnosed with cancer”
“Now listen carefully” the Senator instructed, lowering his voice, “It could be worse than that. The elections are around the corner, I have to hold a stake in the new government. I have worked too hard for this, have burnt my bridges and it is either I achieve it or I perish. I have come this close to victory and I want nothing, not even you nor a legion of demons unbound from the pit of hell to mar everything I have labored for,” he paused to catch his breath, “I have made urgent plans for you to lay low. You are leaving for Argentina right now” he paused to gauge Bruno’s reaction, the lad didn’t object.
“Tony will drive you to a private airfield where you will board a plane with the ambassador. You will be furnished with fifteen million dollars in cash. It’s a pity that I didn’t have much time to make a more efficient plan, but you won’t have much stress travelling in the company of the ambassador. He will see you settle fine in his country. But I must warn you, LAY LOW”
Bruno nodded his accent.
“You have to leave now, Tony is waiting in the car outside and the ambassador doesn’t condone tardiness. As if on cue, father and son stood up simultaneously and in the few minutes that passed, they stood looking into each other’s eyes, the rivalry melting in the warmth of love that radiated from their hearts.
“I won’t have to see you off” the Senator said breaking the silence
“And I won’t ask for it. It will make me feel like the first day you deposited me at the gates of a boarding school for the first time”
“Then I dropped you to be moulded, now I am drooping you off to be preserved” he said sadly
“I guess I have to get going. There are plans to make on how to spend fifteen million dollars. I hear there are beautiful ladies that wouldn’t mind a millionaire nigger’ he chuckled taking off without giving his father an opportunity to answer.
In the open compound, a brilliant dark coloured, tinted Escalade stood prominently, its engine idling away. Bruno opened the door and clambered onto the coy leather seat at the back and without so much ceremony, the driver stepped on the accelerator, gliding the gate thought the gate and into the serene streets of the Government Reserved Area.
Bruno looked around the car, beside him on the seat were two leather suit cases laying atop what appeared to be a bundle. He moved the suitcases aside, revealing bundles of freshly minted dollar bills wrapped in transparent cellophane material. He smiled. Then the car stopped, he looked out through the window, the driver had pulled up beside a bush.
“Are you kidding me driver, don’t you understand the urgency of your mission?” he yelled
The driver turned over in his seat to face his passenger, a revolver pistol in his hand, “You move an inch, and I will be too glad to hasten your death” the driver said coolly but very determined.
“Tony, what is the meaning of this, did the Senator put you up to this joke?”
“I don’t joke. Don’t joke with me”
“The Senator trusts you. Where is your loyalty?”
“Intact. It is still intact, that is why I do what I have to do. My loyalty lies first to my family and then my friendship with your father in that order. The boy you killed is my nephew, his name was Oliver. He was a very bright boy, I pay for his schooling and he is to graduate an architect by next year. You plugged my sister’s fountain of joy with a bullet and caused much grief. I have to do what I have got to do and I don’t have any qualms doing it.”
“ The..the money, what happens to it?” Bruno stammered
“It changes nothing. It would turn out to be a finder’s keep, and the finder, fortunately will have to be me.”
“My dad will get you, no matter where you hide” Bruno said defiantly
“The Senator is going down, he is a sinking ship even though he refuses to see it. Your death will deal the final blow, but then be rest assured wherever you may find your rotten soul, that I will be by my friend’s side even when he has hit rock bottom. Quite a pity you can’t relay my love to Oliver. You are unworthy to walk the path he treads” he said with a sneer.
“Do what you’ve got to do, you low-lying snickering leeching…….”
Bruno didn’t hear the explosion of the revolver, nor did he see the bullet that hit his forehead and tore through his brain, lodging at the posterior end of his skull.
Two months later………..
The newly sworn President of the Federal Republic visited ward 331, a very private ward in the Mary Slessor Memorial Hospital, to show his respect to Senator Hendericks. He owed his gratitude to the support of the political chieftain bedridden with partial stroke.