In 2007 a Chinese national was arrested at the Lagos seaport with five containers of ammunition. Illegal arms importation was a capital offence but the Chinese government wouldn’t let Nigeria prosecute their citizen, claiming he was a diplomat with immunity against prosecution in foreign land. He was deported. The Chinese government never prosecuted him.
In 2008, his body was found dead in his Shanghai home, shot in the head.
In 2013 as the Nigerian Government set for China for a big bilateral conference on trade and capital development, the Chinese government made one request of Nigeria. They had the file of the agent who assassinated their citizen in 2008 and wanted access to the agent. The president was worried, the said agent was one of the best agents in the Secret Service; but the conference with China was too important to put off. The president reluctantly agreed on one condition, he would be in China for seven days; the agent must be arrested in seven days.
Sade came out of the bathroom, a towel tied across her chest down to her knees. Her brown skin was wet from the cold bath she had just had. She walked to the mirror and frowned at the thirty-five year old pretty face with low cut hair inside the mirror. The lady frowned back at her. She smiled, revealing strong white teeth cupped with a small pair of red lips. The lady smiled back at her.
Sade winked at her reflection then walked to the make-up table scattered with a dozen items of creams, lip gloss, lip-sticks, powder, perfume and such. Sade took up a bottle of cream and shuddered slightly at the picture of the smiling woman on the label. The woman-picture smiled so much like her last target. They didn’t look alike. But this toothy smile always connected her to the target.
The target was a Nigerian woman married to a Russian spy from Cuba. Her husband lived in Cuba while she ran a modelling agency in Port Harcourt, a cover from which she passed information about the Niger Delta to Russia via Cuba. When the Secret Service found out about her, she slipped into Cameroon and Sade was sent to get her.
Sade traced the woman to a flat; the door was opened and Sade walked into an automatic pistol, pointed to her face.
‘Welcome, Agent Sade,’ the woman smiled her toothy smile; ‘do have a seat.’
Sade suppressed her look of shock with great difficulty. ‘Is the gun necessary?’
‘It is,’ the woman affirmed as Sade sat down on the sofa. ‘My husband told me all about you Sade. It is my honour to entertain the best agent in Nigeria. What may I offer you?’
Sade regarded the woman with cold sympathy. She was not more than thirty-three but hard life had stretched her face ten years older.
‘Give me stout,’ Sade said, her head snapping for a way out.
The woman aimed the gun between Sade’s eyes. ‘How many bullets do you want?’
Looking into the hole of the barrel Sade saw her fourteen years in the service outlined before her. The narrow escapes, the deceits, the lies, the broken promises, the gunshots, the accidents and the deaths she had lived through waved in her mind. She knew she would be hit someday but she hated abruptness. Her mother was right, she was never meant to marry and raise a family like normal people.
‘Why do you betray your country?’ Sade smiled weakly into the barrel.
‘My country is rotten, the government has no plan for you and I. They only care about filling their insatiable pockets!’
Sade gauged the distance between them. One metre. Too much.
‘Spying against your country is a capital offence.’ Sade calmly rose to her feet.
The woman took a step backward. ‘You stay where you are!’
Sade tried the oldest police trick on earth: ‘Drop your gun or the agent behind you will shoot you!’
The woman turned her head, giving Sade the opening she needed. She sprung forward, shoved the barrel from her face with one hand and made for the switchblade in her hip with the other hand. As the pistol exploded and a bullet brushed past her ear, Sade drove the knife into the woman’s belly.
‘You have stained my white,’ the woman said as she fell.
This was two months back, but whenever Sade lifted this cream she remembered the incidence. Sade threw the cream against the wall and rose to her feet. She walked to her roommate, the mirror.
‘I wonder what God will say to us on judgement day.’ Her face was calm with grave regret. The laborious gasps of the fan as it whined above her were the only sound around, she lived in an isolated quarter but she wasn’t lonely, she had her mirror. But it seemed even her mirror was helpless before her awful memory.
Now, she was free. A week back the field director of the Secret Service had called her to his office to hand her a year leave. ‘Go take some rest,’ he had told her. ‘Travel, shop, marry and have an expensive honeymoon.’ They laughed. Sade wasn’t sure about honeymoon but she knew she would take enough rest, she knew she wouldn’t go back to the service.
She wanted to live for herself. She was tired of impersonating air hostesses, nurses, tourist guards, journalists, bankers, reverend sisters and even prostitutes; she was tired of hiding under these to do dirty works. For one, God would never forgive her for the Mexican drug-dealer she had killed in the border dressed like a nun; He wouldn’t pardon her for the Iranian terrorist she had killed in an Egyptian mosque; and for another, she wouldn’t forgive herself for using her body to gain information from men who were better than animals only because they wore trousers…
‘I am done with the service! I am done!’ she shouted at the mirror, shaking her fist savagely. ‘Done, you fool! Done!’
Sade’s door-bell rang. Her face crowded. She was not used to having visitors, in fact she hated visitors. As she made for the door, her mobile phone beeped the arrival of a text message. Her frown deepened, she hated text messages more than visitors. She knew it would be about some recharge and win promo, or a notification for back-up service, or an advert to sign up irritating callers’ tune or a dozen other annoying things. She didn’t have any friend nor family that would text her. She hesitated for few seconds before she made for her phone. She opened the message. It was from an unidentified computer number. The message was clear.
For a moment she stood, rooted to the spot, the phone like a bad result card in her hand. Chinese? Danger? It didn’t make sense. She couldn’t remember the last time she dealt with the Chinese, so who could be trying this bad joke on her?
The front door bell was ringing relentlessly. Her annoyance thickened into anger. She dropped the phone on the bed and entered the sitting room. When she reached the front door she stopped. Her instincts showed yellow.
‘Who is at the door?’ she asked.
‘Nepa,’ came the immediate reply of a harmless bass.
She hadn’t heard from the electricity regulating body for a century now.
‘What do you want? I paid my bill last month,’ she lied.
‘We know,’ came the prompt reply, ‘but there seems to be a problem.’
Her detective antennae stood up as her instincts turned red. She didn’t know whether the voice outside had anything to do with the Chinese danger in her inbox but she knew they weren’t from ‘Nepa’; they didn’t come for an electricity call, she was certain.
Sade weaved another trap. ‘Sade is asleep; I am her cousin, should I wake her up or would you talk to me?’
‘I would prefer to talk to Sade.’
It is time to see the enemy, Sade decided. ‘Let me go wake Sade up,’ she announced. She ran into her bedroom, made for her chest of drawers and brought out a syringe full of ether. She walked back to the front door, inserted the needle into her key hole and released the entire liquid. She waited for a few moments then opened the door. She saw a hefty man lying unconscious on the door-steps, on his side was a berretta pistol cupped with an efficient silencer.
# # # #
Gbori opened his eyes and winced at the sharp pain that pierced his head. He made to feel his head with his hand but discovered that his hands were tied with a strong rope behind his back on the chair he was seated. How did this happen? He wondered. He tried to force himself loose then he saw her, and remembered.
Sade had captured him!
They had warned him that she was dangerous and wouldn’t be hit easily but he had dismissed this as the usual employer’s prologue. Sade was a woman, and shouldn’t give him problems. Secret service or no secret service, he would get her as easily as diving into a pool; now he was in her hot pool.
‘Who sent you to kill me?’ Sade was turning an electric heater in her hand.
Gbori tried not to look at her hands, he concentrated on her blouse. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about, I am a Nepa man.’
‘A Nepa man with a gun?’ She walked to the wall socket and plugged the heater to electricity.
‘It is for my protection.’
‘I see.’ The iron ring of the heater was beginning to redden with heat.
‘What are you doing?’ Gbori’s voice shook and his forehead covered with beads of anxious sweat.
‘Be patient,’ Sade urged.
A moment passed. The heater was now blazing red. Gbori’s breathing was laboured. He could feel his armpit dripping water on his ribs.
‘Mister,’ Sade began, approaching him, ‘I am a professional. I don’t have to hurt you. I am only planning my defence. So I want to know who sent you. Tell me and forget playing hero. You will tell me now or after I burn your fair face to charcoal?’
‘I didn’t come for your life,’ he heaved.
Sade took a step forward. ‘I will reserve your private part for the last. I repeat, who are your employers?’
Her eyes were a pair of burning buttons, his jaw parted and words flushed out, ‘The Chinese.’
Sade’s eyes narrowed. ‘The Chinese?’
‘How did you meet them?’
‘They called me to a hotel and gave me your picture and address.’
‘Why do they want me dead?’
‘I don’t know.’
Sade touched his ear with the hot iron. He cried, ‘No, no, no, please don’t!’
‘Why do they want me dead?’
‘They didn’t say.’ Sweat was pouring down his face. ‘They only insisted that I shoot you on the head.’
Sade looked at the watch. It was time to cook lunch.
# # # #
Sade returned to the sitting room, startling Gbori by her presence.
‘Please don’t kill me,’ the man pleaded. She ignored him. She began to untie him. When she was done she asked him to go. He didn’t hear well. ‘You want to shoot me on my back?’
Sade looked bored. ‘Please go. I have no use for you. You are just the amateur fool the Chinese are using as tool.’ She walked to the door and opened it. ‘Get out!’
Like a wet rabbit, he began to scurry to the door.
‘I have vowed not to kill again, but tell your employers that I prefer Chinese attackers. I will kill them quick enough, in self-defence.’
He passed the door and took to his heel. An antelope escorted out of the lion’s cage wouldn’t have ran so fast.
Sade shut the door, locked it and walked to the bedroom. She picked up her phone. It was half past six. She called the field director on phone.
‘I have a little problem here,’ Sade’s voice was calm; ‘please send some boys to my apartment.’
‘What sort of problem?’ the field director asked.
‘I can’t explain now, just sent in the boys; I will tell you everything when I come to headquarters tomorrow.’
‘I am sending you some boys right away,’ he assured her.
Sade’s mind came to the harbour. ‘Oh thank you so much.’
She sat down, the Chinese wouldn’t return this soon. She switched on the television. At eight o’clock Sade became a little worried but she knew it was no use panicking, she had strong faith on the ability of the Secret Service to work wonders. Some years back, in Togo, Sade was in a worse distress.
Then the target was the separated wife of a former military junta accomplice. He was held for his part in the corrupt, brutal government. He had inside knowledge about some hidden money and would rather go to jail then disclose them. The government offered to plea-bargain; one of his conditions was that his wife be reunited with him. The woman didn’t want to see him, the Togolese Government couldn’t be persuaded to deport her without the press getting into it. The Nigerian Government was so desperate they sent Sade was sent to kidnap the woman.
Sade was to knock her unconscious, put her in the car and drive her to the nearest field for a helicopter to pick them up. When Sade arrived the field she saw no helicopter and she had shot the woman’s housemaid when she made for the telephone. The gunshot had alarmed the neighbourhood and Sade knew it was a matter of time before the whole of Lome was turned inside out in search of her. She was in a killing tension and all the frantic phone calls she made fell on the ears of calm senior officers in air-conditioned offices in Lagos, telling her not to worry. Sade could hear the siren of the police when the helicopter finally came and lifted them into the air. Her sigh of relief lasted a minute.
That was eight years ago, on an official assignment. Today she wasn’t working for the flag. Officially she was on leave so they could decide not to get involved and there was nothing she could do. But they dare not do that, she assured herself, with a twig of anger. She had served them diligently and they owe her this. She was one of their most reliable agents and they couldn’t afford to lose her. So she dialled the field director’s number. He didn’t answer but promptly sent her a text message telling her to hold on.
Hold on, she nearly screamed into the phone. The Chinese will be here anytime!
Nine o’clock, she was practically shouting at the field director over the phone. ‘I have a situation here and I need back-up!’
‘I checked the roll, all field agents are engaged, I am sorry.’
‘What then do I do?’
The distance faint sound of traffic had since stopped, only the brave effort of her fan kept on. Sade walked to the switch box and relieved the fan of its eternal agony.
She dropped her phone on the bed and walked to her mirror-friend. ‘They have drilled me, now they have no use of me. They have sucked the juice of my fruitfulness, now they tell me, ‘‘help yourself’’.’ She laughed, with little mirth. Her eyes narrowed as her teeth caught her upper lip in a violent grip, ‘I am going to do the best for myself!’
But she felt the torment of the betrayal. For fourteen years she had slaved for this country, abandoned her loved ones, cursed by her family, despised by friends, putting her life on line countless times. She didn’t even have time to make her hair, she had to cut it low; she had devoted her time chasing after government enemies in foreign countries and unknown lands. People she had never met, people who didn’t offend her; now she was told to help herself!
She hated the country, the government, the Secret Service, the field director, all!
Sade brought out a switchblade knife and a police special pistol from the drawer;she placed the weapons by her sides, on the bed. Her vigil had started but sleep was most uncooperative, it came, like a lover, caressing her small eyes, and dragging her to bed. Once she fell asleep and saw her last target in her dream. The woman was smiling her toothy smile at Sade; she was naked, seated before Sade’s make-up table and bleeding through the belly. ‘You are staining my rug,’ Sade shouted and woke up.
She rose to her feet and carried her weapons to the kitchen; she needed coffee to help her keep awake. In the kitchen, She made straight for the kettle but stopped short. The entire apartment was blanketed with sinister silence, the kind of silence that made a cemetery look like a noisy playground. A drop of pin now, would crash on the floor. She strained her ears, her hands tight on her knife.
A heavy blast that deafened Sade for half a second shook the house. A grenade had just shattered her front door. The Chinese had come. Sade walked to the kitchen door and bolted it twice. She didn’t panic; she was too much in a violent mood; only one thing was in her mind: she would teach her visitors not to corner a wounded hyena.
The minute hand of the clock joined the hour hand at twelve. End of day one.