BLOOD ISLAND (5)

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Mark opened the kitchen door. He stood on the door studying Sade’s provocative legs and inhaling the awesome aroma of what she was cooking. He sighed and entered the kitchen, shutting the door behind him. ‘I will like to make you my wife.’

Sade laughed. ‘I need a wife myself.’

‘I will be your wife,’ Mark offered.

‘No, you are already married to espionage. I don’t want to be second choice.’

‘I will divorce the ICO.’

Sade shook her head. ‘I don’t want a divorcee.’

Mark hugged her back. She stopped the cutting of the cabbage. ‘Go away you devil.’

He kissed her hair. ‘Or am I too handsome for you?’

‘Oh,’ she giggled, ‘you deceive yourself. Anyway I would have overlooked your ugliness but I guess you are too poor for me.’

‘I can’t be poor when I control hundreds of thousands of dollars.’

‘Federal Government money,’ she said.

‘I am a patriotic citizen.’

‘Blood money.’

‘It doesn’t matter.’ He crushed her in his arms.

‘Please Mark the food will be ruined. It’s lunch you are playing with.’

‘To hell with food, I want you for lunch.’ He was kissing her neck.

Sade moaned. ‘Why argue with a woman with a kitchen knife in her hand?’

‘She’s my lover,’ he was caressing her bosoms. Sade slapped his hands off, turned around and gave him a hard push. He refused to relent, and closed in. ‘Please Mark, let me be done with this, give me thirty minutes… I beg you. Go and swim.’

‘I don’t swim alone.’

‘I will join you in thirty minutes time, I swear.’

‘I won’t go away until you promise to marry me.’

Sade sighed. ‘Man, you should be ashamed of yourself proposing to a woman in the kitchen. Shame on you.’

He was comically ashamed and decided to go, but he stole a kiss first.

‘Glutton,’ she cursed him as he finally made for the door. A few steps from the door, an explosion rocked the door, lifting Mark off the floor and hitting him hard on the floor.

‘Drop it,’ a coloured woman, between thirty and thirty-five with a pretty malicious face was pointing an automatic pistol at Sade. ‘Drop it or I kill him.’

Sade looked the woman in the eyes and saw that the gunner had spent at least a quarter of her lifetime sending people to early graves. Sade let go of the knife and smiled in surrender as three huge men with efficient silencers in their pistols entered the kitchen.’Your hands on your head. If you try anything funny I will shoot him. ‘ Then in Spanish, ‘Go handcuff her.’

As one of the men made for Sade the woman pointed at Mark. ‘Carry him out.’

‘But we were ordered to kill her company,’ one of the men protested.

Her lips tightened with anger. ‘Don’t argue with me. I know who he is, and what he does in Nigeria. This is HAZARD were you are expected to use your head. I say carry this man out.’

‘I don’t like this,’ the man insisted. ‘Kill her companion was the order. And moreover there won’t be space for him in the jet.’

‘Then we leave you out,’ she shot him twice on the belly. She looked up at the other men. ‘Does anyone of you still think we should kill this man?’

The men didn’t as much as moved. ‘I hate my authority been questioned.’ She hissed.

Sade now handcuffed behind her back smiled. ‘We need more women like you around.’

The woman nodded. She did a head signal to the man who handcuffed Sade and a gun butt landed on the back of Sade’s neck. Sade fell down, unconscious. ‘Good, handcuffed or not, I am only relaxed when people like her are sleeping. Bring them out.’

This lady’s name was Valencia, a name Sade would remember for the rest of her life.
#             #
Sade was falling from a very high tower into a black dark pit, but before she crashed on the pit she would find herself up the peak, falling off; up again, falling off, again, again. An endless circle. The depth of the ditch became shorter with each attempted fall, till Sade was just lying on the height, giddy. Her head was part of the rock, its crude extension, and upside down. Gradually, her skull crept out its independence but was splitting into two. She wasn’t lying on a rock after all. It was a hard sofa or recliner, something like that. And it was vibrating, it was in motion. She was in a Lear jet, flying to somewhere.

Someone was talking to her though the fevered voice seemed to be coming from her head. Although she was lying on her cuffed hands she managed to turn her head. Valencia towered over her. ‘Welcome to Camus Island,’ she announced. Two pairs of hands on either side lifted Sade to her feet so that she stood face level with her captor. ‘Where is your manners, Sade? Say thank you for the ride.’

Tired of being bullied around like a sack of manure Sade’s temper surged into her head. ‘What’s the population of Camus Island?’ she asked. Taken aback, Valencia had no answer. ‘I think 500 thousand people or so, I am not sure. But by the time I am finished with your country no one will be sure. There will be so much death about, your government will have to conduct another census. Mark my words.’

‘You talk too much,’ Valencia said.

‘Read my files again.’

‘Take her away.’

Waiting to receive Sade on the late afternoon sunlit airfield was the head of HAZARD himself. He was standing before his jeep and beaming with sheepish smiles. They brought Sade to a stand before him. ‘I am honoured to welcome you to the Island. You cost me four good men and a half of a million dollars. You are a big deal. I will personally drive you to the Presidential Palace. Colonel Hector is presently in Zimbabwe visiting old friend Mugabe. He will be back tomorrow and will give you the welcome befitting your heroic status. Put her in the car.’

Hugo nodded at the approaching Valencia and stretched a congratulatory hand. ‘You succeeded where so many failed. I knew I could count on you.’ They shook hands. ‘Thank you sir. I have something else to show you.’ She snapped her hand above her head and Mark in cuffs was led down the craft.

Mark was not fatally injured by the grenade blast on the door. This was due to two reasons. One, the door itself served as a cushion against the blow; the explosive was from the other side, its effect lowered greatly by the impact on the door. Again, as it was an offensive concussion grenade with a relatively small wounding radius, about two metres, and Mark was only just getting into its harmful radius when the blast occurred. The force however knocked him down, and save for the splinter wood that battered his forehead he wouldn’t have sustained any injury. And he was much conscious while Valencia and one of her men argued over his life. Then two gunshots and he seized his breath as though he was out. Valencia wasn’t deceived, before he was carried away she knocked consciousness off him with the butt of her gun.

‘Dios mío,’ the HAZARD chief exclaimed. ‘You brought back this high ranking Nigerian espia. This is huge.’ He walked towards Mark. ‘We have been trying to set up an international criminal office like you have in Nigeria. You will help with information, won’t you?’

Mark didn’t say a word. ‘We may have to persuade him,’ Valencia said.

‘Of course,’ Hugo agreed. ‘Take him to the Abandoned HAZARD Infirmary.’ Mark was led away. ‘Who’s our best torturer?’

‘Carlo, but he retired last year.’

‘Call him out of retirement. I want him to work on Mark. Give him everything he needs. Pay him a thousand dollars per hour.’

‘That will be expensive, sir.’

‘Do it.’

‘Yes sir.’

At this moment Carlo, fifty-six, blind in one eye and largely deaf was standing before his dirty pond trying to fish with a line and hook. He had never caught any fish before but nothing gave him so much joy like trying, his favourite pastime. Little did he know that in few moments’ time he would receive a phone call that would put him in the middle of World War Three. Little did he know.

To be Continued…

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CORPERS LODGE (FIFTEEN)

Previously on Corpers Lodge

I woke up with a slight pain in my ribs, the exact place where Chiemeke shot me, in the dream. It was election day, I stamped to my feet, not even a bullet in real life should keep me away from today’s exercise. I didn’t even have time to pray, so while applying paste to my toothbrush I talked to my Father in my heart, Papa thank You for the gift of life. I fetched water. It is not by my might that I see this day. I opened Micah’s door, he was already dressed in his khaki; he was talking on the phone. I waited long enough to confirm his phoning was about the election, it was. I shut the door. So many slept last night but didn’t see this day. I began to brush. Papa be thou exalted…

Through with my mouthwash, I turned to see Micah leaning on the pole, sad looking. ‘What’s this? You can’t carry this kind of face to election ground.’

‘Forget my face. Have you spoken to the guys in Snake Lodge?’

I didn’t get it. ‘What is wrong?’

‘Just check on them.’

I handed him my cup and toothbrush and headed for Snake Lodge where Gowon and the four Batch C guys live. Of course, your guess is correct, we call it Snake Lodge because it is an apartment surrounded by bush, so far they killed an average of one snake per week. At the lodge, I entered Gowon’s room first. He was seated on the carpet with a mighty bowl full of cocoyam before him. His cheeks were bulging, his stomach seemed like he had swallowed half a bag of cement yet he was peeling a tuber of inferior yam with hungry enthusiasm and dipping it in a lame green vegetable sauce.

‘You came for the right time,’ he said.

‘Are you not going to the Owa Palace?’ I managed to keep the annoyance from my voice.

‘What will they doing there?’

I looked at Gowon’s Adam’s apple which looked like a cocoyam was trapped there and a desire to put a sharp knife in that cocoyam gripped me. Micah was standing for election and this guy ask a useless question! Knowing that anger wouldn’t help I squat down and picked up a cocoyam. ‘Cocoyam is my favourite tuber,’ I said in Hausa. I hadn’t eaten cocoyam since 2002.

‘Walahi,’ Gowon declared, ‘if you wan me happy gas me cocoyam.’ I wished he replied me in Hausa. I am the English graduate here for God’s sake! I bit a cocoyam and nodded with fox happiness. ‘This is classic.’

‘Ah, if you taste cocoyam in my village you know something.’

Less than an hour to the most important event in my service I was here eating and talking cocoyam. ‘Guy, today’s CLO election and we are getting late. Hurry up with this. We need to give Micah a landslide.’

‘Wait, if Micah win the election they gas give him land?’

My temper poked me on the nose. ‘Landslide is not the same as farmland you fool,’ I wanted to scream. But that would cost us a vote so I smiled and said, ‘Anybody who wins the CLO will be given a land. And I will make sure we plant only cocoyam on the land if Micah wins?’

‘Walahi?’

‘I swear.’ And the general began to shout, ‘Sai Micah, Sai Micah, we must win, we must win.’

I made for the next room. Corpers Reuben and Hameed said no problem, they would cast their votes for Micah. Corper Austin who calls himself Jay Jay said he was hungry, I asked him to come eat breakfast in the Cemetery Lodge. Then Corper Tosin told me he would vote for Micah’s opponent, hoha! I sat down on his mattress. Micah had squatted Tosin when he first came and they didn’t seem to like each other. So it had gotten to this extent?

‘Me I no fit vote for that guy?’ I asked to know why and after beating about the bush Tosin told me that Micah was responsible for his burnt small pin Nokia charger. I was ashamed, this bad blood because of ordinary 200 naira charger! I swallowed my shame and asked Tosin to come take my own charger on his way to the palace, and he was appeased. I ran to Cemetery Lodge.
#               #
The hall was filled almost to capacity. There were 96 corps members in this CDS area and 88 of them were present which was a record. It was a little saddening that of the few absent two of them were from my PPA, Mercy, and IBK who were in the hospital. But we would still win without their votes, I was very sure.

The NYSC anthem had just been sung, everyone settled down. The tension in the air was suffocating. On the high table facing us were the LGI and the outgoing CLO, whispering. Then the CLO rose to his feet. ‘The LGI will be going to the other CDS area to conduct election too so let’s proceed quickly. We start with the nominations.’

Corper Toby rose up and nominated Micah, Amos seconded. Micah stood up and accepted his nomination. ‘Any other nomination?’ Someone nominated Chiemeke, someone seconded. Chiemeke accepted his nomination. ‘Any more nominations?’ Silence greeted this question. The CLO declared nominations closed and asked the two nominees to step out to the front where everyone could see them.

The hall began to clap as the two guys stepped out. Then the hall went wild with cheers when the two, full of charm, faced us. The shout came mostly from the ladies. From my experience with campus politics, I know most ladies, when they don’t know the candidates personally, voted base on looks. But it would be difficult to pick the handsomer guy, two Michael Scofields wouldn’t have caused more commotion. Next to looks, ladies appreciated sweet voice, knowing that Micah’s voice would melt a sculpture’s heart, I smiled with confidence.

The candidates addressed us. Chiemeke spoke first. He said NYSC had been encroaching on the rights of corps members and had not treated corps members well; he blamed this on poor representation and promised to fight for corpers if elected. The corpers clapped, he added, ‘This is a job for a strong man, not a woman.’ The cheer was firm and the laughter on Micah. I felt like throwing something at Chiemeke. Micah just smiled.

‘We don’t need a strong man for the post of CLO,’ Micah began. ‘What we need is a good listener who will carry our grievances to the authorities. NYSC is our parent here and you don’t need to be strong to relate well with your parents. All we need is to be responsible and resourceful. I want you to elect me as CLO to serve you, to bridge the gap between us and the authorities in a sensible manner. CLO no be fight.’ The hall cheered thunderously. Micah added, ‘And this post is not just for men. I am a man but it’s just a matter of opportunity not because a woman cannot be CLO. Remember, what a man can do, a woman can do…’

‘Better!!’

It was at this point that I brought out my phone and posted congratulations to Micah on the local government Whatsapp group. He had murdered Chiemeke and the election was bound to be a mere formality.

The candidates returned to their seats. The CLO asked us to tear a piece of paper and write out the name of our preferred candidate. ‘This is a mere formality,’ I assured Micah. After writing out the names we went to the high table, row by row, starting from Batch A, and submitted our votes in a plastic bucket, like an offering. After I voted I almost danced back with joy.

For the sorting, the CLO asked two representatives of the candidates to come forward. I and a raw material named Tayo came out. This Tayo guy was so enormous I thanked God it was observation, not wrestling we were out for.

The sorting began. The CLO would bring out a vote, showed it to me and Tayo then gave it to me if it were Micah or gave it to Tayo if it were Chiemeke. I had expected a clear victory from the onset for Micah but the votes seemed to be equally divided. The more the sorting progressed the harder my heart beat. My palms became unnecessarily damp and beats of sweat crowded my forehead. After sorting and seeing that the wad of papers in my hand looked smaller than the one in Tayo’s hand my breathing became laborious with imminent defeat.

‘We start counting Micah’s votes,’ the CLO collected my wad of votes. He counted out in unison with the audience. Forty-three votes for Micah. Eighty-eight people voted in all, if Micah had forty-three votes then it meant his opponent had forty-five! Defeat stared at me, I could almost hear it giggling. And I had already congratulated Micah on Whatsapp! If only IBK and Mercy were here! It took me great effort to maintain a civil face as they began counting Chiemeke’s votes. Perhaps two people didn’t vote for either candidate, I prayed.

The more the number grew the more sweat my forehead gathered. I reached for a mental hankie and wiped my face when they approached thirty-nine. Then ‘Forty… Forty-one… Forty-two… Forty-three… Forty-four!’

Chiemeke’s supporters began to buzz as a sigh of defeat escaped Micah’s lot. ‘The votes are 44 43,’ the CLO announced aloud.

‘One vote is missing,’ I found myself saying. ‘There are eighty-eight votes but the tally is eighty-seven.’ With annoyance, the CLO grabbed the bucket that served as the ballot box and turned it face down. A ballot paper fell from the bucket. With a strange sharpness that must have materialised at the sight of hope, I caught the paper before it reached the floor. I turned it and ‘MICAH’ stared at me. I handed it to the CLO. ‘The vote is for Micah,’ he announced. ‘The tally is now 44 44.’

‘Yeah,’ Micah’s support base exclaimed with relief.

The CLO turned to the LGI. ‘It’s tied ma.’

She rose to her feet. Corper Sharp Sharp burst into the hall, ran through the aisle and came to a slippery stop before our INEC headquarters. The hall laughed, releasing a much-accumulated tension. The LGI didn’t find it funny and asked the crasher if he had ever seen a university wall before.

‘I am very ill,’ the corper cried, ‘and from the clinic. See.’ He brought out a nylon bag from his pocket and poured an assortment of sachets of drugs on the floor.

The LGI relented somewhat. ‘I think you should visit a real hospital. Anyway, it’s good you are here to serve as tie-breaker.’ She asked the two contestants to stand up. Micah and Chiemeke stood up. ‘Which of these two do you vote for as CLO?’ Sharp Sharp was asked.

Calmly, Corper Sharp looked away from the two; cunningly, our eyes jammed. How much? I asked with my eyes. Corper Sharp wiped his face with his five fingers meaning five thousand naira. I scratched my jaw with two fingers, two thousand. Sharp Sharp slapped an imaginary mosquito on his chin with four fingers, four thousand. I began biting three fingers (three thousand) and frowning with finality. ‘You are wasting our time,’ our local government inspector told him. I bit my lip, deal? He gave me a half-smile… deal!

Then he cleared his throat, at this stage he was the most important corps member on earth. ‘I,’ he began slowly, ‘thereby cast my one and only vote for Corper Micah.’ It took a full moment for the message to hit home. In fact, it was only after the LGI said ‘Your next CLO is Micah’ that rapture happened. The triumphant noise was deafening, like a celebration of a Super Eagles World Cup goal. Micah was carried shoulder high and whisked out of the hall, to the Owa Palace for the traditional CLO blessing.

Corper Sharp Sharp packed his drugs and began to walk away, he didn’t even look my way. This guy is a professional. I felt like screaming with joy but big boys don’t celebrate openly, patience boy, tonight, no sleep in the Cemetery Lodge. So with a straight face, I shook the CLO’s hand, shook Tayo’s hand and bowed to the LGI. I began to walk away with a slight swagger in my steps, the kind of swagger reserved only for Corper Tinubu.

Click here to Read Episode Sixteen

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