River Runs Deep/Take Me

2012-06-21 20.29.22

These were written during my stay at a Super 8 motel in upstate New York:

Where the River Runs Deep

Where the river runs deep

Deep into the heart of the world

If man is the son

And the sun was God

Mother the earth

Her tears the drink that flows

From her eyes in the Nile

Where does all life end?

 Where does it end?

Take Me

Take me to a place where life is free:

The choices are green

The trees never shed their leaves;

Take me to a place where I can hold your face:

Dress you up in lace

The feeling we share will never be replaced;

Take me to a world that knows no hate:

Love is like heaven’s gate

I’ll take sugar for my tea any day;

Keep me in your heart, don’t let me go away:

Say that you want me to stay

I’ve got miles to go, but this place

Is where I wish to lay.

Song To A Lost Love

The year was ’86

We were young and full of sin

Our dreams was a yellow brick road

Oh, how hard life is as it goes.

Do you remember us lying in the backyard

Under the moon and her sparkling stars

We wished on Cassiopeia

That we would remain friends even when no one dared;

Those days they come to me

In the midst of trembling dreams

I try chasing them away while watching T.V. and sipping beer

But your eyes, they haunt me,

Coward that I was, I ran away.

Now September has turn to June

You were here, but now you’re gone too soon

I stopped by your grave to say goodbye

But I can’t stop these tears from falling down my eyes.

No, I can’t stop these tears from falling down my eyes.

I Gave You Power!

53965_Papel-de-Parede-Revolver--53965_1600x1200

Too many talk in the U.S., about gun violence and the scars it leaves behind in our lives. I’m not writing this post to join in the conversation. Too bad we fail to see things from the gun’s perspective. What would it seem if a gun were allowed to tell its own story? Such was the theme behind this old story of mine:

STORY FROM A GUN

Oh men … why can’t fellas just let me be? Look at the way they scramble about just to get a-hold of me: pick me up after trading in some cash, then use me however way they want before dumping me just when I’m starting to grow hot, I just can’t understand none of this.

It’s like I’m a gun. That’s all I am, a stupid cold-hearted gun.

 

There I was on that day, lying between some stinking underwear clothes in the depths of a cabinet drawer, trying to catch me some early evening snooze, when suddenly a light came on and I felt my owner pull out the drawer and delve his hands between the clothes and pulled me out. The fool checked my clip underneath, wanting to make sure I was fully loaded and ready, and then said: “Okay homeboy, let’s go do this.”

He tucked me into the waistband of his jeans and together we bounced out of his crib. He had a ride waiting on the alley round the back; he had several other fools from his goon squad waiting for him. After a brief exchange of handshake and cat-names, he jumped into the back and that was when the car came to life and we headed out into town.

There was Rap music floating out of the stereo. Someone lit up a reefer and passed it about as we made it along the city traffic. At least for now, until whenever the action started, I had some brooding time to myself.

It’s at times like this that I absolutely hate myself, hate what I am and everything that comes with my lifestyle. Why can’t I somehow be an instrument of Life, I wonder. So much I wish I could find myself in the hands of working doctors and surgeons, instead of keeping company with ingrate fools such as these ones.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at our destination at some dark looking building somewhere close to the city docks. The boys brought their heads together and quietly whispered among themselves, wanting to know who’s going to be the one to go up there and do what needs to be done. My owner raised his hand, saying: “It’s been a while since I pulled my heat. Let me be the one to cap that fool!”

The others agreed and told him it’s on. He jumped out of the car, pulled me out of his waist, cocked me up and together, as quiet as two mice we made our way into the building while the others waited. Unknown to my owner, I too have long been waiting for a moment such as this, and for a long time now I’ve searched for just the right opportunity to spring my surprise on him.

Soon we got to the door where my man’s enemy was waiting. He tensed for a moment before kicking in the door, aiming me at the guy who was inside the room.

“I’ve got you now, SUCKER!” he yelled, just before pulling my trigger.

And that was when I sprung my surprise at him.

All he heard was a click and nothing more. You ought to have seen the shocked look that was on his face when he squeezed my trigger three more times before it registered in his mind that it was actually jammed.

It was enough time for his enemy to pull out his own weapon and aim it at him; unfortunately for my owner, his didn’t jam.

I heard the shot explode from the other dude’s gun barrel and heard my owner cry out before dropping dead on the floor, bringing me down with him. He was finally dead. I felt I would miss him but I didn’t. All the times I’d saved his life, he’d been one thankless bastard – at least I gave him power while he was alive.

And there I lay for a while, feeling happy about everything. I was now free with my life. But that ended when the cops arrived and I felt someone else pick me and locked me up in an evidence bag.

Damn!

 

 

 

Seventeen

index18We’ve all had that one we often refer to as a ‘lost love‘. The one whom we figured we could have had if and whenever we wanted, except we were young and way too immature to realize what we had. And even worse, we never got to realize what we had until it was finally lost to us. Makes you wish you were back to been seventeen again.

 

She was only seventeen

Her name was Magdalene

Eyes and poise of a beauty queen, she was something

Out of a Playboy magazine.

She took me to places I’d never been

Where angels roamed like creatures under the sea

If this wasn’t love, then tell me

What else could it have been?

She explained to me dreams my heart doubt to feel

Eyes that saw the lilies in the field

One night she gave me a kiss, held my face

Told me to never ever leave.

Now she’s no longer seventeen:

Fast cars, champagne over glass

Thinking only of parties that will be

Oh, how I wish I was still seventeen.

Dreaming About a Girl

 

IMG_0252

I’m dreaming about a girl:

I’m dreaming of a song for a love

I’m dreaming of fire – this fire

It burns with desire

I’m dreaming of picnics under a southern sky

Long walks down Charleston harbor

Boat regalias sailing further from shore,

The sky turns gray

Still your smile makes my day

Shine, shine so bright.

IMG_0274

I’m dreaming of colors

Colors that light up your hair;

I’m dreaming of laughter

Laughter is all I care today and now,

I’m dreaming of walking down your Pinopolis garden

Sunshine and rain

Love and heartbreaks

I’m dreaming of a girl:

Yes, I’m dreaming of you.

An Unpublished Memoir (PreQuel)

A lot is bound to happen when you make up a decision in life you know is going to change the outcome of your future. No way you can know about it at that early. Such things never really start to manifest right away, but trust me they do. Hard to imagine that all the Success books you read just never seem to prepare you for it.

A lot of things went toward the decision I took to change the route of my life. For one thing, we humans all live our life in the form of a circle: we grow old, parents ship us off to school, we graduate, we find ourselves jobs, we start a family of our own, we grow old . . . and then begin the same circle with our little ones. And even when you break things down to a sub-level, you encounter a similar circle each day: you wake up – breakfast – head off to work – lunch – you crunch the numbers, you return home – dinner – sleep. The same thing repeats itself the next day, and the day after . . . till one day you realize your whole life has been like a mouse running in a Ferris wheel.

My desire was to break the circle I was in and hopefully find myself in a new one. I wanted to start doing stuff I love doing. See places I only saw in my dreams, and experience things the average Nigerian has never once thought about. Sounds far-fetched, and don’t worry, I wasn’t dreaming about becoming an astronaut to go space-walking.

I wanted to tell stories. Stories folks in the western world and elsewhere haven’t heard.

How easy was it for me to make this decision? Tough. It’s not easy for one to just quit his job and walk away from it on faith alone. But already there were factors happening that sort of eased the burden of me making it. For one thing, I was getting fed up with the job I was working, and needed something new. The work was affecting my health, and seeing too much death around you can make you change your mind seriously on doing something else. Also I felt it time I took my writing serious. Who knew if ever such moment would pass my way again?

This happened after February, 2012. My date of quitting was June, because I wanted to spend my upcoming birthday in the States. I didn’t tell my colleagues, because I knew they would have done their best to prevent me from quitting. God knows I was tired working with them and just wanted to see new faces elsewhere.

One major question my few friends threw at me: What were my chances of succeeding in what I intended? The truth was I had no idea. None whatsoever. All I knew was I had a manuscript, THE RABBIT’S MAN, growing old each year inside my cabinet drawer. It’s hard finding an editor in my country, let alone one who took the job professionally, and I needed someone to look at my manuscript with a professional eye and opinion. The work was far from being clean or near perfection. No way was I going to get that done as long as I remained in my country. And like I’d earlier said: my job was killing me. What were my chances of success? None. Zero. Ziltch!

But I knew I just had to try. At least for that, I knew I wasn’t going to fail, not unless I turned chicken and ran back to my former boss to give me my old job back. I decided to break the circle of my life and venture into the great unknown. Or like that classic Robert Frost poem, I took the road less traveled. Has it made all the difference? Yes, I believe so!

DSC00044

I travel toward the sunset!

 

 

 

The Rabbit’s Man ( Excerpt 2)

war-on-men

How much war can a man wage with his past? How many miles would he have to run to be free from it?

These are questions I unwittingly was trying to answer when I sat down to write THE RABBIT’S MAN. However, I never consciously thought of them that way.  Thoughts of theme have never been a steady occurrence to whatever writing I choose to endeavor. To me, it’s much like plotting. Plotting has always seemed to me like one packing a bag and heading out to a known destination. That’s fine for some writers of notable repute, except for me it’s all about being on a journey: There is a start, but the end is one I know I might never get to . . . perhaps not in my lifetime. But who knows, maybe the characters might. After all, it’s their story I choose to tell, not mine.

One of my favorite scenes in THE RABBIT’S MAN involves the bickering between the character of Nigerian businessman and former gun smuggler, Kingsley Azobi, and the suave and seductive British spy, Lionel Parrish. Here is where Lionel Parrish attempts to persuade Kingsley to do his bidding of resuming his alliance with the Nigerian militants and becoming a spy for him. Although Kingsley at first tries to push him off, but when he realizes the dirt and secrets Lionel has on him, he has no chance but to capitulate.

 

* * * * *

The kitchen was hotter compared to outside. Kingsley opened the windows to let in fresh air. Everything about the room was spotless. Lionel looked in two of the cabinets and found utensils and glass cups laid out. A formica table occupied the center of the room with four chairs on opposite sides. Lionel didn’t bother checking the fridge, knowing it would be empty. All the house needed was a tenant.

“I still admire what your boys did to this house, King. Quite outstanding.”

Kingsley didn’t reply—he was less charmed by the man’s friendliness now that he knew it was all a façade. How stupid and dull-brained he’d been not to have noticed something back at the office, or the jabbing questions Lionel had been throwing at him on the sly. Years ago, it would have been hard for him to fall for a con like this. He turned on the sink’s faucet, glad to see water gushing from it, and splashed some on his face. Lionel reclined his back against the table, waiting for him to finish. Kingsley turned off the faucet and wiped his face with his handkerchief, feeling better.

“Who are you, Mr. Lionel Parrish?” he asked as he folded and pocketed back his handkerchief. “If that really is your name.”

“I don’t recall having another beside it, ol’ boy. Are we back to the Parrish thing again? I thought we’d made some progress at being friends.”

“You’re no friend of mine,” Kingsley spoke sharply. “And seeing how ingenious you’ve been to entrap me into giving you a listening ear, I’m inclined not to take you at your word at all. That leaflet you’ve got in your pocket is worth less than the toilet paper it was printed on. Go ahead and do your worst with it and get done with whatever it is you’re here for.”

“Let’s not get hostile, Kingsley. I’m here as a friend, and that’s what I intend to be, if you’ve got the time. I’m sorry I fooled you earlier. All I wanted was a chance for you and I to have a private talk like we are now instead of at your office. I can take a wild guess you would’ve thrown me out your window if we’d stayed back there, wouldn’t you?”

“Without a doubt I would have,” Kingsley admitted.

“Perfectly reasonable. But I’m not here to hand you to the sharks out in the world. You’ve turned your life around, became a good soul, gotten yourself a family, and you seem to be doing all right except for this real estate mess you’re in. I want to give you a chance out of your situation.”

“You’re talking a lot but not saying anything yet. Start with telling me who you are and whatever the hell you want from me.”

“There’re two answers to that first question, King: the official and unofficial part. Officially, I’m chief liaison officer for a conglomerate called Ever-Blue Inc.; got certified papers, phone numbers, soup and nuts to prove it. Unofficially, I work for Her Majesty’s Foreign Service, or if you’d prefer an easy sentence, I’m your friendly spy.”

Lionel got his wallet out off his back pocket and unearthed a laminated card from it and gave it to him. The card bore the owner’s name as belonging to one Lionel T. Parrish, including a snapshot of his face with the Mi6 insignia printed on it. Kingsley looked at it then gave it back.

“Cute ID,” Kingsley remarked. “How do I know it’s not a fake?”

Lionel returned the card to his wallet. “You wouldn’t, and it’s not the real deal, but close enough. The higher-ups won’t permit me to walk around with the real one.”

“I’ll buy that for now. You knew about my talk with my friend Ralph this morning. How was that possible when I met you only some hours after that?”

“You didn’t know of me then, but I knew of you, and your schedule for today, too.” He took something out of his shirt pocket and threw it at Kingsley. It was a black, circular disc resembling a large piece of coin. Kingsley turned it over in his hand and looked back at him.

“It’s a mini-recorder,” said Lionel. “Latest super-spy technology. It’s got an adhesive magnet underneath with a recording disc built inside. I made a deal with your friend’s secretary, and she planted that in his office.”

He weighed it in his hand, thinking hard before throwing it back at him. “How could you have known all this?”

“I did lie about my arrival time here. Actually, I’ve been in the country going on three weeks now, much of it spent keeping you under surveillance. No chance you would have spotted me even if you’d tried. I stole into your house last Sunday while you, the wife, and the kids were out, and had enough time to go through your diary and take note of your bank date.”

“Sneaky bastard.”

Lionel raised his hands in innocence. “I didn’t touch anything else, if that’s any consolation to you. I was on the clock and didn’t want your neighbors noticing. Lovely home you’ve got, though. Tell me something: Your wife, she by any chance know about the hole you’re in with the bank?”

“None of your business,” Kingsley snapped.

Lionel shrugged. “I’ll bet that means she doesn’t know. Such a smart devil you are.”

“Cut the dumb talk, will you? What is it you want from me?”

“I’m going to need your undivided attention first. Am I getting that, or are you still turning red on me?”

“You’re trying my patience. Get on with it right now or you and I can call it a day.”

“There’re four things I want from you, ol’ boy. Your time, your health, and most important, your eyes and ears. Believe me when I say that I’ll make it worth your while and take away the hangman’s rope your friend and the bank have got around your neck.”

“You going to wave a magic wand or something?”

“Better than that. I’m going to put you to work—clandestine sort of work.”

“Ralph, too, promised a similar thing. Tell me why I should listen to you and not him?”

“Mine isn’t as dirty as his. Also, what we do involves saving people’s lives, including yours. You’re not in the gun business anymore, and me and the people I work for believe you. Your friend Ralph Lawson is affiliated with the same buggers who murdered those engineers a month ago, and they’re planning something big to hit this city. I’m here to make sure they don’t, and I need your help to make that happen.”

“Why don’t you go work with the police on this. It’s their turf.”

“Your police are much too narrow-minded and crooked for my liking, ol’ boy. And you and I know they aren’t going to be of much help before your friend and his pals start making stuff happen.”

“James Bond to the rescue,” Kingsley sneered.

“I’m being serious here, ol’ boy. This is where you come in.”

“You want me to find out what he knows? You want me to get involved with him?”

“Is that too much to ask? The way I heard your conversation, you didn’t exactly say no to his offer. Give him a call and say yes to whatever he wants you to do, anything short of murdering someone. He’ll want to let you in on more of what he and whoever’s backing him are into. That’s where we start from.”

“You want me to risk my life, and that I can’t do. I don’t ever want to go back to stuff I left behind years ago. Not anymore.”

“No one’s talking about you going back to it. I’m going to be your safety net. You act nice to your friend and his pals and agree to get them the guns, which I’ll deliver to you, and you to them. Easy as pie.”

“Nothing is easy, pal. You’re asking me to be an accessory to whatever thing they’re plotting.”

“With the hole you’re in already, I find it hard to believe you were even thinking of saying no to your friend. People will get hurt if you don’t do this, King. More people than you can imagine. Would you go to bed happy one night and wake up to find the city’s in flames and be comfortable with that?”

“You’re James Bond, aren’t you? That’s your problem, not mine. I have enough crosses to bear on my conscience; not thinking of adding more. Are we done now?”

“I’m not finished, ol’ boy. The people I work for know the risk you’re going to be taking and are going to compensate you handsomely for it. That includes eradicating your debt. It’s a sweet offer, my friend.”

“Then why don’t you give it to someone else dumb enough to take your deal?” Kingsley retorted. “Why does it have to be me?”

“Because this is your turf, King,” Lionel argued. “You’ve been there before, and you’ve rolled with these sort of people. You’re familiar with what they do and what they’re capable of. Why else would they be coming after you if they didn’t want you on their side? In the end, you’re going to be a hero. Think about it.”

“I don’t care about saving this city or of being a bloody hero—my care goes to my family. I’ll take my chances settling with the bank on my own.”

“Now wouldn’t that be interesting to see. You’re going to borrow a little from here and there, and who knows, maybe your sweet wife won’t find out about it, now, would she?”

Kingsley’s eyes burned with fury. “I told you to leave my wife out of this. Whatever scorecard you’ve got against me has got nothing to do with her.”

“I’m sorry, King, but that choice isn’t up to you, and if you keep sounding foolish the way you are right now, you aren’t going to leave me any choice at all. I’ve been honest with my intention to help you, but I can’t help you if you don’t reciprocate. My bosses back home won’t be happy either. But if that’s the way you want it, then I guess we don’t have anything more to say to each other. Now there’s absolutely nothing that’s going to prevent me from showing your wife this leaflet with your face on it and letting her know of the situation you’re in. I don’t want to do it, and I’d hate doing it to someone like yourself, but you’re going to leave me no choice.”

“What do you intend to do?”

Lionel took out a miniature tape player from his pants pocket and placed it on the table. “Here’s how it’s going to play out, and I’m just talking out of my head here. One morning, maybe this week or next, or maybe in a month’s time after the guys at the bank are done butt-fucking you of your livelihood, your Hillary is going to arrive at work and find a letter on her desk from an anonymous address. It’s going to have a copy of your leaflet, along with archived Interpol documents and information regarding your gun-running days in Europe, not to mention some of the lives you got paid for to snuff out. You might think I’m playing because here no one remembers or has any records of the crimes you and your buddies committed, but where I’m from, we’ve got tons of goods on you. Imagine how the world will look when you wake up one morning and find your face splattered all over newspapers and people think of you as they would a mass murderer. And for the coup-de-grâce, I’m going to play this for Hillary.” He pressed his finger on PLAY, and as Kingsley listened, he was transported back to Ralph’s office, recalling everything they’d said to each other while the miniature tape player spoke aloud their recorded conversation; Lionel increased the volume so he’d hear every word:

“ . . . got caught the last time I attempted this sort of thing back in Europe. Most of my old contacts didn’t make it. It’d be suicide for me to return to it.”

Lionel’s finger stopped the tape. “Believe me, I’ve got all the goods on you, King. I can destroy you whenever I want, in ways you can’t begin to comprehend. I’ll mail copies to the police and every news station in the country, including the bank. Your kids will be so ashamed to even look at you. By that time, you will have lost everything.”

Kingsley looked at the tape player, his mind replayed everything Lionel just said to him. He shut his eyes and imagined it all happening, the nightmares of his past reaching at him from the bowels of hell. Everything he’d hoped to escape was now standing in front of him, in the form of Lionel Parrish. When he spoke, his voice croaked.

“You bastard.”

“I’m sorry, King, I really am. I want only what’s best for you, as I know you want what’s best for yourself as well. Help me out, and we’ll both win. Walk away from me right now, and your life is going to be a living hell starting tomorrow.” He returned the tape player back into the same pocket he’d pulled it out of. His bonhomie spirit instantly returned, and he laughed as he came over and wrapped an arm over Kingsley’s shoulder. “But enough of that, how about you and I go outside and talk some more? Let’s find something to drink first. I’m thirsty.”

 

The Rabbit’s Man (Excerpt 1)

images

My mission to the States was to see about getting this novel into the hands of an agent. Unfortunately that didn’t work out. Seven years the manuscript has laid dormant in my folder. This here is a short excerpt from THE RABBIT’S MAN.

It’s an espionage/thriller, the story of a Nigerian businessman fighting against a past he’s never been freed from when a British spy enters his life with a proposal that’s definite to shatter his world. It’s a combination of Graham Green’s ‘Our Man in Havana‘, and John LeCarre’s ‘The Talior of Panama‘.

And by the way, for anyone reading this excerpt, the content is fiction, but the story is very real. Google ‘Nigerian Militants‘ if you think I’m lying!

* * * * *

It was hours after midnight when the six men set off for their mission. Dressed in jungle fatigues, they moved in two dinghies, three to a boat. Their paddles sliced through the dark, swampy water as they moved farther along the near-pitch darkness of the river. Two men paddled in each boat while the third manned the front with an AK-47 assault rifle resting across a thigh.

Their leader, Bartholomew, a rugged, cold individual, crouched in front of the first boat, peering ahead. They passed several fishing boats and villages along the way, but the inhabitants were all indoors and asleep; no one took notice of them. Bartholomew thanked his luck. This was his mission from the start—one he knew he’d been destined to carry out. He’d personally hand-picked his men for the raid. They were tough, brutal, and merciless. They were all willing to go the distance with him toward shedding of blood, which was the purpose of this mission. Every man in his unit was sworn in blood to protect their land from being ridden into extinction by rapacious foreigners and conniving oil profiteers, the ones under the umbrella of the government responsible for raping their land. All other militant army groups had folded to the government’s laws and pressures, or fallen victim to their own capriciousness, but not them, the United Niger-Delta Brigade. Tonight, their action will justify to the world their unwillingness to cower from taking back what was theirs.

They came to the end of the brackish river, which opened into the expanse of the Bonny Estuary. Federal gunboats do patrol the area, but the decrease in militant activity since the previous year, when the government negotiated an armistice with the last remnants of militant rebels, had slackened their effort to the point of it being almost nonexistent. Budgetary cuts, too, had helped worsened their malaise. Bartholomew and his men took comfort in this; their attack would be a shocking surprise the likes of which no one would expect.

They followed the route of the tide, and three miles ahead entered an upstream river channel. They sighted their target—an oil jetty station, one of several located thirty miles from the city. The station stood on a wide concrete berth close to the river’s edge, a suitable location for small merchant ships coming from offshore oil production fields at Obudu, Ofon, and Amenam to unload their consignments—drilling rod pipes, cargo containers and generator equipments—before proceeding inbound toward Cape City or the shipyards located at Amadi Base. The nearest federal military base was stationed at Bonny—eighteen miles from the jetty—but the militants had the timing of their mission well set. It would take the authorities an hour or more to gather enough soldiers to respond to any threat occurring at this hour.

Bartholomew burned with raw hatred at the government, and everything it represented. All the years of growing up and watching his people being forced and beaten from their indigenous homestead to make way for the foreign companies to come and siphon their oil with them not having a say in the matter, of being chased by the navy gunboats, hiding whenever they sabotaged any oil pipelines with pittance effect had fueled within him the urgent call of taking the war to their enemy’s backyard, wanting them and the public to know what it feels to be afraid. He was confident he and his men would be gone before the military even showed up.

Bartholomew’s attention was focused on the large building situated twenty feet from the berth. From where he stood, he could make out a lone guard patrolling behind the wire-meshed gate of the compound; there were supposed to be two of them. He and his men had studied stolen blueprints of the building and knew where every office and door led, including the number of guards in the compound. Their target were some expatriate engineers residing in the building who had arrived two days prior to inspect some imported fuel pumps.

The militants hunkered in their boats as they approached the quay.

The lead boat came alongside the bushy coastline, away from the jetty’s bright lights. Bartholomew signaled his men to get ready. Each man appraised his weapon and flicked off the safety.

The six militants of the United Niger-Delta Brigade alighted and crept up the soggy ground until their feet touched dry land. They hid from the bright roving lights and scrambled across the concrete front of the quay, toward the east section of the complex. They were on enemy territory now. There was the distant throbbing sound of working generators that powered the complex building; everything else was quiet. Bartholomew led his men around the side of the compound toward the front gate where he had earlier spotted one of the patrolling guards. The gate was electrified; this they knew about already. They hid behind an embankment situated next to the compound and waited.

Bartholomew gave one of his men his assault rifle and took off his fatigue jacket and pants, which hid a blue coverall similar to one of any regular night-shift worker stationed at the jetty. He approached the gate and hissed at the lone patrol guard to catch his attention.

“Hey there, my man,” he lowered his voice as he called out in pidgin. The guard stopped and looked in his direction, his rifle slung behind his shoulder. He bore no alarm at seeing him. Bartholomew produced a hand-rolled cigarette from his coverall’s hip pocket. “How you dey manage? Me, I just dey fall in for night shift. Abeg, you fit assist me with lighter or matches?”

The guard seemed to contemplate for a moment then came forward, muttering under his breath. Bartholomew saw fatigue in the guard’s demeanor, no sign of being suspicious as to his presence, and knew he wouldn’t be a problem. The guard got to the gate and unearthed a set of keys to unlock it. Bartholomew entered the compound, still holding his cigarette in front of him, while his other hand held a pistol with a silencer behind his back. The guard was checking his pockets for a lighter and didn’t see the gun pointed at him. Bartholomew shot him twice. Aside from the dull phut–phut cough of the silencer, the only other sound was that of the guard grunting before falling to the ground dead; his lighter clattered beside his leg. Bartholomew scooped the guard up by his armpits, his eyes darting everywhere as he dumped the body inside the empty security house beside the gate. He glanced around, making sure he was in the clear before waving his men over. He shut the gate after his men hurried inside the compound and took back his assault rifle.

Niger Delta Militants setraco

A cobbled pathway led to the three-floor company building; three white trucks were parked beside the front entrance. Bartholomew and his men huddled behind one of them. He could see through the glass-fronted door of the building into the lobby; there weren’t any guards positioned there. He sent two of his men to scout around the building for the other patrolling guard. They returned two minutes later and reported no sight of him.

Bartholomew decided to chance it. He and his men approached the front door of the building’s lobby, and he held it open for his men to slip inside. Past the lobby was a wide corridor with numerous offices, all of which would be locked and deserted. A center stairwell led to the second and third floor; the nightshift workers were quartered on the second, while the expatriates on the third. Lambs gathered together, waiting to be slaughtered.

“It’s time, my brothers. Time to make our people proud.” Bartholomew whispered to his men.

The six-man team divided. Bartholomew took two of his men and signaled the other three to take care of the nightshift workers. He crept up the stairs leading to the third floor with his men trailing behind, cradling their weapons.

The sound of gun fire coming from the second floor was instantaneous, sounding like exploding firecrackers, and reverberated around the building. Bartholomew and his men had just stepped off the stairs onto the third floor landing when a door down the left corridor opened and one of the expatriate engineers—a middle-aged Briton who’d been finding it hard to fall asleep—stepped out wearing a shirt and a pair of briefs. He was the first to see the armed militants and only had time to mutter “Dear God” in shock, before catching a hail of bullets fired from Bartholomew’s assault rifle.

The bullets tore through the Briton’s torso and limbs like a razor. The force of the bullets threw him against the far wall before falling to the ground.

Another door opened just as Bartholomew and his men rushed forward, their hearts beating with adrenaline and excitement as one by one, they emptied their magazine rounds at the engineers.

An alarm sounded as Bartholomew took one last look at the other dead corpses his men had killed, lying sprawled on their beds. He and his men returned to the second floor, leaving behind a scene of death. The second floor bore similar deathly scene as the one upstairs. They met with their other colleagues and trooped down the stairs together.

The second guard whom the militants had failed to spot, having sounded off the building’s alarm, entered the building doorway with his rifle drawn, afraid. One of Bartholomew’s men racing down the stairs saw him in time and opened fire. The guard screamed aloud as bullets tore into his flesh, some of it shattering the glass doorway. The guard crumpled to the ground and Bartholomew and his men raced past him out of the building. They ran down the quay toward the direction they had come. They jumped into their boats and started paddling back the way they had come. The sound of the alarm grew fainter, so too the sight of the jetty.

An hour later after they’d gotten lost in one of the tributary rivers and were safe on dry land, Bartholomew slapped his men’s shoulders, congratulating them on a job well done. They laughed and joked about their kill. They had accomplished what no militant group had dare attempt before—murder a group of foreigners. He could just picture the headlines once news of their action become known to the world in the morning.