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Le Relax Hotel & Restaurant
Greater Victoria, Seychelles
March 16, 1995
From the moment the door shut behind the new intruder, Wemimo felt like a trapped animal. He had hoped to get out of the country unnoticed. Now, two people suddenly have become witnesses to a crime he didn’t commit or know anything about. If anything, he just got into deeper trouble than he was in five minutes earlier before Katherine walked in.
His first thought was to lunge himself at the new fellow, overpower him and make a dash out of the hotel for the airport before anyone else was aware of what had happened in his room. He may even be able to escape and let the new guy take the blame for the girl’s death. He fantasized, in the few seconds before the new comer could take in what had happened. Overpower him, get Katherine to help him somehow – in spite of the fact she was almost ratting him out a few moments before. He was confident he could get her on his side.
But, that would not have done him any good. It would jeopardize Katherine for a second time – and he could not bear that. Also, a good look at the intruder made it evidently clear to him that overpowering him was out of the question. He was a lean man, but a sinewy leanness that belied the strength underneath the black turtleneck pull over he had on. There was a smell about him that indicated a person who knew a thing or two about defending himself. In fact, Wemimo had a chilling feeling this man could break him without a sweat.
It was pure instinct kicking in. That big red button that told you, ‘stop right now! Before you do something stupid.’
He needed a new plan; and very fast. But, the first thing he needed to do was to get this new problem solved. He had to get the new guy out of the room, before he spots the girl lying prone on the bed, not moving even with all the commotion going on around her.
“Look, I have this under control. We were just sorting out an argument,” all the while Wemimo was closing the distance between them and trying to put himself across the guy’s view of the bed. But, it was too late. He saw the realization flit across the guy’s face. He saw his eyes shift slightly to cover Katherine, and he took a step backwards, to better have himself and Katherine in his field of vision.
“Look, this is not as bad as it looked,” Wemimo tried again. There was no use pretending he hadn’t seen the girl on the bed. Maybe, the guy was even the police. The thought sent a chill coursing down Wemimo’s spine. He had to take control of this situation or he is finished. “I don’t know what happened myself and I was still just trying to decide what to do,” he was almost shaking to his knees now. He looked over at where Katherine was standing, he had to clear her of all this. If this guy was the police he cannot drag her down with him again. “She is not involved in any of this. In fact, I don’t know how she stumbled into this room in the first place. She must have gotten lost. She might have been looking for something or someone….I didn’t understand what she was saying. I don’t speak creole and she doesn’t speak English”
That was all he could do and he hoped to God the police guy believed him. He also prayed to God for Katherine to have the common sense to keep quiet and take the lifeline he had offered her.
The new guy took a quick scan of the room, then he faced Wemimo “Okay, look here my brother I can help you.”
Before Wemimo could react or say anything, the man moved with the swiftness and grace befitting a well-trained predator towards Katherine and rapped her sharply on the head. The light went out of her eyes, just like the light goes out of a naked bulb whose power had been cut due to the notorious NEPA power outages back home. The whole thing happened in seconds. Wemimo had no chance of ever stopping it and all he could muster were several blinks at Katherine’s body which flopped unceremoniously to the floor, one arm sticking under the bed.
He couldn’t still move as he watched him pick up Katherine’s limp body, propped it on the only chair in the room, close to the window and proceeded to check her pulse.
“I didn’t hurt her. Stop looking so mortified,” he said as he pried opened each of Katherine’s eyes with a gloved hand. “Look, you’ll have to pull yourself together and wrap up that body in a sheet. We will have to move it out of here and into my room. That way, even when the cleaning girl comes in here to clean up, nothing will seem out-of-place”
Wemimo heard him, but he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His head was in another place and his gaze couldn’t tear itself away from Katherine.
Memories of all those years came flooding back.
He should have owned up that he was the one who owned the drugs and the plastic credit cards. Take responsibility for the situation. But no, he had slunk away before the police noticed him coming out of the all-night mall in Kentwick. His eyes had met with hers and in that split moment, he had known she was going to take the rap for him.
She got a suspended sentence, but after that incident something broke between them. Gradually, they drifted apart. In spirit and in person – in spirit, he moved away first. In person, she did. Leaving Kentwick for Gloucestershire.
He couldn’t make her go to jail this time. Not after he had promised her, just before she handed him the blueprints the previous night – the previous night?! His head screamed at the thought. It seemed like millions of years now. No, he can’t.
“Look Mister, I don’t know this young woman and I wouldn’t want her to get into trouble.”
The man looked over at Wemimo, a teasing smile curling across his small mouth, “you need to get yourself together. Nothing will happen to her. The cleaning girl will meet her sleeping and leave her the hell alone. But, you my friend need to get out of the country before this girl’s absence is noticed,” he pointed at the girl on the bed and then swiveled around in one swift movement like a conductor at an opera, pointed at Katherine on the chair “the madam there will be awake in an hour or two at most.” He took another quick look around the room, “it is a good thing you guys don’t have any connection. But, when she wakes she would want to call the police first. Think about yourself man.” That smile teased his mouth again.
Wemimo knew those words were true and that what the man said was what he was going to do. It was the safest option for him. This stranger had promised to help. He would take that offer. Hell, he needed all the help he can get. He could call Katherine later and try to explain.
He moved to the bed and wrapped up the dead girl’s body with the sheet, then a thought struck him. “I am using my sheet to wrap her up. The sheet will be missing.”
“Of course, it won’t be. We would replace it with the one in my room. We just need to move her there quickly, right next door.”
That got him moving, he opened the door and looked out to be sure that the coast was clear then motioned to Wemimo to pick the body and follow him. He stepped out into the corridor, as Wemimo picked up the body from the bed. He quickly opened his door with his key card, and as Wemimo got to his door he flung it out and pushed him in, stepping briskly after him and shutting the door.
“I don’t think we were caught on the security camera. The angle was too tight.”
“Security cam…cam..camera?” Wemimo was flustered and flushed as he dumped the body on the floor. “Which security camera?” The alarm in his voice could be right across town, over the crashing noise of the waves as it punished the shoreline dragging back little pieces of its conquered adversary.
“The one in the corridor,” the man moved to the bed and whipped off the sheet on his bed and handed it to Wemimo, “now, go on and replace the sheets then get your bags and come back here. Do not touch the woman. I repeat do not touch her. Now, go before the cleaning girl comes.”
Wemimo bunched the sheets in his hands and stepped out. Once he shut the door, Dogo moved quickly to the false mirror on the wall, slid open the mirror and checked the view finder of his camera hidden in the nook carved into the wall for exactly this purpose. Katherine had done well given him this observation post used by her country’s intelligence boys for surveillance. He was satisfied that the camera was working well, he observed as Wemimo replaced the sheets. He had the sense not to make it look too neat. It looked slept in. That’s good. But, he didn’t exhibit any sensibilities for a man concerned with self-preservation, when against the express instruction he had given him, he went over to Katerina’s chair and kissed her on the lips….
As Wemimo picked up his two bags, Dogo slid back the false mirror and went into the bathroom.
Now, here comes the time for the tempering test.
He had been lucky so far, so he didn’t think it was wise to push his luck too far. He wanted to call Katherine so much, but he dared not. He had the blue prints, he was several miles away from the hotel and he had scaled the scrutiny of security men at the airport. He wanted to get back to Nigeria and begin work on his designs. He was also very ready to forget his terrible experience here. Someone had died in his room, and he had had partial inertia. His memory loss was a first. He just couldn’t remember the girl or how she had come to be on his bed – and dead too.
His mind drifted to Katherine as he sat at the departure waiting for his flight. He had only the check out to worry about. Following how the other security scrutiny had gone, he was pretty confident that he would have no problems. He would Katherine from Lagos, at a safer distance, and thank her for all the help she had been. He had a deep-set feeling she wouldn’t rat him out. She had always been like that. The hotel episode was just down to panic.
With his eyes closed he didn’t see one of the ‘custom and immigration’ officials take a call, then look at him seated on the lounge seat and nod rapidly, his eyes hardening as he did. Wemimo also didn’t see him call his other two colleagues in the two cubicles on his right and left, or see those two also look at him and their gaze harden.
He didn’t see all of this, so he was unaware anything was wrong and out of the ordinary when he was asked to step aside by one of the ‘customs and Immigrations’ officials. At first, he had thought to vent his chagrin at being treated as such. Maybe, that false show of displeased attitude will get him released without any concerted to search him thoroughly. But, his better judgment prevailed. Causing a scene might only make the situation worse. So, he had obediently done as he was told and he had been led to a side office, with the other passengers on the queue eying him suspiciously. He understood, after all it was the age of suicide bombings and airplane jacking. He also began to be afraid for himself and his freedom.
Had they gotten on to him so quickly? Katherine! His heart did a Usain Bolt. She had woken earlier than the stranger estimated and had called the police. Or had the stranger set him up. The “package” was in a false bottom of his briefcase. He had been assured it was completely undetectable, and that turning into a ‘mule’ to get the package into Nigeria was the price he had to pay for all the help the stranger was doing him.
Wemimo had no choice in the matter. It was a small price to pay, everything else considered.
He immediately knew he was in serious trouble when he was asked to strip and his brief case was taken from him to be searched. He had complied quietly, sensing that any resistance may be severely dealt with. It was at this point that he remembered her note to him. He didn’t know what the three guys, two searching his clothes and brief case and the third staring with unblinking eyes at him, were looking for. Or rather, he hoped they weren’t searching for what he had in his possession – The blueprints and the ‘package’. They might simply suspect for being a trafficker – which he was or a terrorist, which he definitely wasn’t. Whatever it was, he just hoped they don’t find it. He had reasons to fear. He had heard stories and watched movies where an innocent man became a villain overnight. He didn’t care to be one of such, heavily guilty as he was.
“Please sit down, Mr. Martins.” It was unblinking eyes who spoke. His stare as hard and cold as ice. He stood with his arms folded across his chest. The hair around his wrist indicating how much more was hidden beneath his blue shirt. “According to your documents, you arrived exactly a week ago. Can you please state the purpose of your visit?”
It was a question that belied a multitude of others. It also connoted a more sinister pre-conceived evaluation of him and the purpose of his visit.
Fuck and Shit!
He was dead. Yes, dead and already buried here. No Nigeria for him, no project pitch, no fame from building a very novel architectural masterpiece. A first of its kind anywhere on the Nigerian soil.
He instinctively knew he was going to be in a lot of trouble if he said anything to this guy. He has seen enough movies to be convinced about that. Plus, he didn’t know exactly what he was fishing for and he was not going to bite at the bait.
He took a deep breath before responding, “I think I have been most unfairly and unjustly treated. I have come here as a tourist, a proud Pan-African one at that, and this is how I am treated by my own brothers? You have not told me why I am being held, you have not explained to me why I had to strip my clothes or why you needed to search my brief case. No one had thought it courteous to offer me a seat or a drink. I have been treated like a criminal ever since I was led out of the boarding line, and now you ask me questions without reading me my rights,” he paused to take in another gulp of air, “so, I think I would be safer if I am allowed a phone call, as it is my right to do, I need my lawyer here.”
The cold stare in the man’s eyes immediately grew colder and harder. His face flushed a bright pink. It was like he had been slapped. “You want a lawyer? You will get to make your call. It will be interesting to see who you call and how you both can explain how you came into possession of this, Mr. Spy and Terrorist, sir.” He was pointing at him with a rolled up tube casing.
The ground felt all shaky at once. Wemimo felt like he was falling through. He had the blueprints to Subsix and now it had been found. He was in trouble and it was likely he had put Katherine in trouble too. He hadn’t even left the island yet and things were beginning to go bad, very bad. He needed to call her and warn her. Even if she ratted out on him because of the dead girl, he needed to warn her that the blueprints had been found and she needed to disappear.
She can still escape the fiasco that was soon to follow.
“Let me make my call. Until I do I am not saying anything more to you.”
When he called her, she had not panicked. Quite the opposite, she had been in control and taken charge. “Very good, Wem. Do not say anything more till I get there. Meanwhile, ask for the prints to be giving back. Insist on it. No other eyes were supposed to see them other than yours. And now, a pair is more than we can afford. I will be there in ten, twenty minutes tops.”
She had hung up immediately. Wemimo asked for the prints and it had been handed over by unblinking eyes with little fuss.
“Now we wait, eh?” the corner of his mouth was turned up in a wicked smile as he gestured Wemimo to put on his clothes and take the other seat facing him.
They sat and waited. Looking at each other, like two chess players hell-bent on outwitting one another.
When she arrived, she had taken charge of the situation and in less than thirty minutes she had gotten him out of the room and back on the boarding line in time to board his plane back to Lagos.
She had not said a word about the hotel or anything at all. She had just cut through fast and hot.
He was loose and free He had not had enough time to ask her how she managed to tame unblinking eyes, but just enough to kiss her as hard as he could for saving him from those unholy stares he had endured for about fifteen minutes.
She had kissed back. It was sweet and sour. She trembled as she held him, her body saying a lot to his hands.
He thanked her and boarded his flight.
His future awaits; the same way what he was leaving in his past will wait. ===================== TO BE CONTINUED =======================