Frank paused his favourite cartoon game — the imposter. He had caught one of the imposters a few minutes before the disturbing knock.
He adjusted his tie, coughed, and brushed sausage crumbs from his leather Jacket
“ Who is at the door?” Frank asked.
“ Clara, sir” the voice replied.
“ Come in”, Frank replied, trying hard not to betray his mood. Clara was his best friend — though his employee — they were close-knit.
Clara opened the door slowly and went inside.
“ Sir, I came with the…the…” she giggled and sat on the chair. Frank couldn’t help it, he laughed and pounded with his clenched fist on the table.
“ You no get respect again abi?” Frank asked, feigning seriousness.
“ l am sorry sir”, Clara mocked and they laughed again.
Deep down in Clara’s heart, she was glad that Frank was still Frank. Many a time, she thought he would change, but Frank kept his nice behaviour.
“ You like this your imposter game o”, Clara said and dropped her bag on the table.
“ Don’t mind me “, Frank said and stroked his full but trimmed beard that reminds you of Arabs from the tales of Arabian nights. “ Which file is this?”
“ The design for our new logo and some of the drafts for the new finance e-book, we discussed during our last conference” Clara replied.
“ Oh thank you very much. Who wrote the draft?” Frank asked.
“ Micheal wrote the first two drafts, the ones I marked with a red marker. “ she took two leaves of the paper and set them aside on the table. “ I wrote the rest”
“ When are we publishing the e-book?” Frank asked.
“ Next week” Clara replied and stood from the chair.
“ We see later now,” Frank said and picked his tablet.
“ Abi now”, Clara replied and left the office.
When Clara left, Frank dialed Juliet’s number. Today was the day and he had been briefed by his lawyer on how delicate the case they filed against Professor Falade was. Though the case was dangerous enough, the fame and publicity he would get would launch his upcoming book. The success of the trial today would complete his final drafts on the ‘ OTHER SIDE OF FAME ‘ ( the book based on professor falade’s human trafficking business.
“ Hello Clara “
“ Frank we have just concluded the process, Barrister Toju said l can now bring the file. “
“ Wow. Please be careful, you know the nature of this case, we can’t afford a mistake. “
“ Okay, no problem, see you at the court”
“ Bye,” Frank replied.
“ Who is that?” Frank asked and dropped his phone on the table.
“ Who is that?” Frank asked again and walked inside.
“ Clara… St..”
Two firm hands grabbed Frank and pushed him against his table. Before Frank could stand, Jamil, grabbed him and then pinned him to himself with his left hand, sustaining a tight grip around Frank’s neck.
Jamil took the syringe he kept in his pocket and carefully he found the right vein on Frank’s neck and injected him.
Frank struggled for a while then he fell asleep.
“ Professor Falade’s second trial starts today. It was gathered by our correspondence that the police…”
???’? ???? ?ℎ? ?????? ???? ??, ?????? ??? ??.
Jamil stared hard at the screen with his feral eyes. He clenched his fist and gnashed his teeth. In his mind, he drove to the ??? station where the newscaster was shunning out lies with his knife collection and slowly he picked one of his favourites and slit his throat. The newscaster fell backward on his back, blood oozing from the gash on his neck.
He smiled at his thought and wished he had Juliet in his arms now. He pictured her eyes closing slowly in the cold embrace of death and his knife deep in the gash in her neck.
??? ?ℎ?? ???? ????, ?????? ????? ?ℎ? ???????, Jamil thought and stood from the chair he had been seating on before the station started the news.
Jamil walked slowly to the table beside his shelf. The wooden shelf creaked as he pushed it aside revealing a carved box on the floor. He picked the box and carried it to the table where he set it down carefully on the wooden center table.
Staring at the box, Jamil smiled as he remembered the very night he was appointed the grand executor of the brotherhood of the marble after many years of protecting the secret of the fraternity.
On that night, in a dimly lit room that was quiet, cold, and filled with smokes that spiralled into the air from the burning end of the incense each member of the brotherhood held in the circle which he knelt in the middle with his hands outstretched, the grand seer declared the oath :
“ Do you swear as a brother that you will obey every command and defend the honour of this brotherhood as the grand executor ?”
“ l swear” Jamil replied.
The grand seer collected the wooden box from his assistant and with the knives clanging In the box, he dropped it into the outstretched hands.
Jamil bent over the box and opened it slowly. The collection glittered in the faint rays of the light in the room. He picked a fine boning knife — a Japanese santoku — and walked out of the room to prepare his message.
Juliet gripped the steering wheel tightly as she glanced at the rearview mirror again to ensure she wasn’t followed. A car was behind her, just few metres from her on the lonely asphalt road. She slowed down a bit, turned off the ignition, and reached for her pistol.
She waited silently with her finger close to the trigger till the red car drove past her car, hooting as it went. When the car got to the T-junction and took the left side, Juliet sighed with relief.
Juliet brushed her hair with the back of her left hand, pushed her eyeglasses up the bridge of her nose, and turned the ignition on.
Juliet had mastered this security routine after she sued Professor Falade for Human trafficking three weeks ago after years of being undercover for the police in the brotherhood of the marble. She knew they would come after her and that was the reason she could not trust her escort, she left him in her office . The file she was driving home to take was the contract files of Human trafficking deals and video records of the act that would seal Falade’s doom.
When she got to the T-junction, she took the left.
Pain was the message. Pain was the bait. Pain shrouded with fear like a present was the bait that he knew Juliet would take easily. Though she was tough, she was also vulnerable, love made her vulnerable and now he would play on her Achilles heel.
With the santoku knife in his left hand, he turned on the bright led lamp beside Frank.
The light rays pierced Frank’s eyes, jarring him from his sleep. He looked around wildly with fear and his heart throbbing. His hands were tied with a strong cord that cut deep into the soft flesh of his hands whenever he tried to clench his fists.
Jamil walked closer to the chair, Frank sat on. He brought his santoku closer and smiled. He dropped the santoku on a table closer to the chair Frank was staring at him from.
“ You see, young man. I don’t want to harm you. Walahi, l don’t want to see your blood flow, but l have to do it”
“ What have l done?” Frank asked, his voice close to whispers. His teary eyes focused on the glistering sheen of the santoku.
“ You should have asked yourself that question before you allowed Juliet to expose the secret of her fellow brother in her fraternity”
“ Fraternity?” Frank asked in his calmest voice, feigning surprise as if the word was alien to him.
“ When she sued the professor you were not aware abi? And today the professor’s trial will start few hours from now “
“ Please she is innocent,” Frank said, wrenching his fist. The cord cut into his flesh.
“ And you are guilty?” Jamil asked and took a black hood from a bag close to him. Frank shook his head.
“ You will help us,” Jamil said, enjoying the fearful look Frank had.
“ How?” Frank asked.
“ You will see. But l promise, this won’t hurt at all. I’ll be fast”
Jamil walked to Frank, as he got closer Frank jerked, his heart beating faster than normal. Jamil covered Frank’s head with the hood. Frank screamed as Jamil brought the santoku closer to his left wrist and carefully like a surgeon he severed it.
Juliet parked her car beside a guava tree close to her hidden bungalow. The twittering of the birds from the green canopy of trees around the house and the crunching sound of guava leaves and tiny branches she was walking on brought happy memories of her village to her mind.
She built this hidden bungalow here in the forest for her safety and Frank’s safety. Since the day she sued Falade, she knew she would be watched and whosoever tracks her down should not find her with her fiance. This life of solitude was her path to freedom and she was willing to embrace as long as the trial lasts.
When she got to her door, she took a key from her pocket and pushed it into the keyhole. To her surprise, the lock was broken.
Fear gripped her. She took her pistol, gripped it tightly, and aimed at the door. She kicked open. She was hit by the deep smell of cigarettes. She sniffed and walked slowly into her parlour. She stood still for a while, her eyes trained on the hallway and the dining by the left. She kicked a stool.
She took another step towards the center table and quickly ducked for cover behind the wall the hallway and the space carved out for donning shared.
Carefully, she looked down the hallway. The hallway was empty and the only thing staring at her were the beautiful eyes of the statue of a bata dancer at the end of the hallway.
She lowered the muzzle of the gun and sighed with relief.
“ Who came into this house ?” she said aloud as if she was addressing someone in the parlour. She was still wondering who broke into her house and why when it clicked.
She turned to run, and as she did, she slipped.
She yelped as she hit the tiles. Then she saw it.
There on the floor, blood was flowing from the space carved out for dining( which was a bit higher than the floor of the parlour). Her heart leapt into her throat. Juliet stood quickly, almost slipping again.
She walked to the dining table and pulled the dining table closer. The cutlery clanged and a fork fell on the tiled ground.
Blood streaked from behind the tin of bournvita to the floor. She bent over the bournvita and fidgeted in horror. Beside a bowl of cornflakes close to the bournvita tin, was a knife smeared with blood by its sheen. By the pointed side of the knife, blood gathered like tiny beads of sweat. She pushed the table away with what was left of her energy and something hit the floor with a thud.
Her legs shook when she saw it. She suppressed a scream. Right beside her left leg was a hand. It was severed by the wrist from the forearm and on a finger of the severed hand was their engagement ring.
Juliet screamed and it echoed throughout the bungalow, escaping through the open window before it lose itself in the canopy of trees outside.
Frank opened his eyes slowly. He was dizzy and fatigued. Waves of pain swept through his body from the stump his hand was severed from. The door of the room swung open and Jamil walked inside.
“ I have tried her number on my phone but she ignored the calls” Jamil said as he walked closer to the chair Frank sat on.
Frank’s body was smeared with blood and his trouser was soaked with his blood. Flies buzzed about him, tasting and flying away.
“ what is your password?” Jamil asked as he picked Frank’s phone.
“ 0001” Frank muttered in pain.
Jamil typed the password and turned on the camera. He took few shots of Frank and sent them to Juliet via WhatsApp.
Juliet’s phone beeped. She wiped her wet hands on her skirt and turned the tap off. She typed her password and saw a message from Whatsapp.
She clicked on the message and the pictures popped up. She gasped.
Almost immediately her phone began to ring. She closed the Whatsapp app and clicked on the green telephone icon and waited silently.
“ Who am l speaking to?”
“ Do you love my gift?”
“ Don’t harm him again. I have what you are looking for, if you harm him l will destroy it.”
“ Oh your beau is important “
“ Let’s make a deal. I bring the files and the video recorder, you release Frank. Deal?”
“ Sounds like a deal,” Jamil said and giggled. “ Meet me at the old telecom company at sabo. Don’t involve the police if you want your beau alive”
Juliet dropped the phone and wore her jacket. She hid her loaded pistol in a pocket and arranged Falade’s files and the recorder in her bag. She picked her keys, ran out of the house to her car, and drove at a high speed to the outskirts of Ore Township.
Jamil took his pistol and aimed it at Frank.
“ Stand up!” Jamil barked.
Frank stood up slowly with waves of pain surging through his body.
Jamil drew Frank closer to himself, pinning him to his chest. Then he brought the muzzle of his gun to Frank’s head.
When Juliet got to the old telecom company building, she parked and went inside.
The door swung open and Jamil aimed at Juliet as she walked into the office with a black bag.
“ Your hands in the air” Jamil ordered.
Juliet dropped the bag on the ground and raised her hands.
“ Where are the files and the recorder”
“ l have everything in the bag” Juliet answered.
“ Not so fast, toss the bag here”
Juliet picked her bag from the ground.
“ Release him”
“ Toss that bag!”
“ We had a deal. Release him and l give you…”
Jamil pulled the trigger of his pistol. The bullets pierced Juliet’s shoulder and she fell.
Jamil released his grip on Frank and walked to Juliet. Blood was flowing from Juliet’s shoulder when he got to her.
“ You foolish Oathbreaker! You betrayed the brotherhood, you betrayed your people. I won’t kill now, l want to watch you cry”
He kicked Juliet’s abdomen and she curled up in pain.
“ You don’t deserve a quick death from me, the brotherhood will decide your fate. “
Jamil turned his back on Juliet and aimed at Frank.
Frank squirmed and stared at the muzzle of Jamil’s pistol.
With the speed of lightning, Juliet pulled her post from the pocket she hid it, and fired.
The bullets went through Jamil’s head and shattered the glass window in his front. The pistol slipped from his hand and he fell with a thud.
Oladejo Victor Olayemi is a budding artist and a secondary school
graduate. He lives in Ore, Odigbo, Ondo state and wrote in via email@example.com