Previously and outside the walls of the prison, King Edem would never have been caught dead imbibing a coca cola of the plastic bottled variety with a meat pie.
Even though he was in prison now, serving a life sentence, he still felt a bit embarrassed about it; he had always regarded the general idea of fast food as being terribly low class. King could never withstand any practice that would have warranted him rubbing shoulders with mediocre men.
But after eight years of slow and inevitable sinking realization that he would never be a free man, his strictures naturally loosened. The small details of his life that had once held significance currently seemed inconsequential when faced with life imprisonment in the drab, inhabitable penitentiary.
Yet, with his heart currently singing with perverse joy, he could have eaten any poor snack and drunk any poor drink that Polycarp’s cousin, Java, had managed to bring along for his scheduled visit.
Since he was facing life imprisonment and he’d once been an influential man in the Akwa Ibom State political scene, he had little or no rules when it concerned his visitors at the prison.
There was no need denying him the inconsequential pleasure of receiving visitors when everybody knew he would die in here. No amount of good behavior would grant him hope of parole in the next hundred years, not after all the things he’d perpetrated. He was the perfect example of a man who would rot in jail.
The thought should have been depressing, but with Java sitting in front of him with confirmation that indeed Morgan and Alero could be hurt, he would certainly die happy.
He looked at the sharp photos again in Java’s phone and he felt like giggling when he saw Morgan herding two boys towards the gate of the school, with other parents and pupils. There were also photos of Alero, pregnant and opening the car door and waiting for the boys to enter.
King imagined the pain he would pay to be inflicted on them, his eyes glazed over as he imagined bursting their happy bubble and just before they died…no, just before Morgan died, he wanted to keep Alero alive. Just before Morgan died, he would know who was responsible and he would be aware of what would be done to his wife and children but he would be helpless to do anything for…
Polycarp slurping the last vestiges of his soft drink rudely broke King’s reverie. The former crime boss pinned the burly inmate with a death glare that went unnoticed.
Java cleared his throat to get his cousin’s attention, but the big guy was busy sucking up all the liquid from his plastic, bottled sprite. “Polycarp!” Java called sharply, catching his cousin’s attention at last.
When Polycarp swiveled his gaze to King, he had the grace to look suitably chagrined, “Sorry,” he murmured.
“Maybe you should squeeze the bottle to thoroughly get all the liquid out,” King sneered sarcastically.
“Sorry, boss,” Polycarp apologized again and belched a short while later causing King to cover his face with his palm in an exasperated posture.
Java had to bite his lower lip to curb a nervous chuckle. His huge cousin wasn’t one for politesse in the least; on the other hand, though King Edem was a deadly criminal and was in prison for life, his attitude and speech nuances pointed to one who’d been strictly conscious of social politesse.
“Tell me again about you revenge,” King prodded nicely while sliding the flat iPhone across the table to Java.
Java was terrified of the crime boss currently facing him but the only indication of his emotions were his sweaty palms which he consciously kept rubbing on the thighs of his jeans.
All through his visit, he had managed to maintain an almost careless disposition, but not too casual because he had to be sharp and focused to answer King’s randomly thrown questions; the crime boss wasn’t a fool.
“Like I said, I wouldn’t have bothered you if I could locate where Udo Ebenezer has his money. So to get my ten million naira back and some for the stress he put me through, brute force is needed.”
“Now to employ the kind of force that knows what’s required of them, I need money. And to mess up his reputation and destroy his life like he did mine…”
“How much do you need?” King Edem calmly enquired.
“Five hundred thousand would have been ideal. I would hire three to four sensible brute force, have two to three weeks of intense reconnaissance and intense planning and then move in,” Java easily explained with a shrug.
“But with the Ekpembes,” he whispered, leaning close to avoid being heard by any of the prison officials a few paces away, “We will need a bit more, since kidnapping is involved.”
“I’ve read about how good Morgan is and we certainly need more money for more brute force, more time to observe and plan a perfect operation. With that and the surprise factor on our side, we’ll be successful,” he finished and leaned back.
“Don’t you think your operation is a clash of interest with mine?” King asked with raised eyebrows.
Java had been anticipating this question, “With all due respect, boss, no. The way I see it in my mind, both operations will be carried out simultaneously. An early morning pick up of Udo Ebenezer before he gets to the school and mid morning kidnap of the Ekpembe boys.”
Usually, King was able to read a person’s character in the first thirty minutes of meeting said person. But Java confused him. The boy was giving off different vibes; his tattoo peeking out from his slightly folded shirt spoke of a different story, while his whole look, especially the thick glasses, spoke of another.
He had noticed that he used an iPhone and he could chock that up to him being a hacker. But he’d been skeptical of his making all his ten million naira from hacking and then losing it to a con man; it didn’t seem to add up.
It was either Java was the best actor or the boy was a psychopath with innocent looks. And King desperately wanted to believe he was a psychopath with innocent looks, it was what Morgan deserved for daring to put him here.
His believe was justified by the fact that Java had even approached him and was ready to do his will; even coming ready to the meeting with photo evidence of his mark.
Additionally, King had glimpsed the fierce need to destroy the man that robbed him of his money, the boy would make a fine crime boss someday, and maybe he would even sponsor him. He was convinced that Java was criminally genuine.
King Edem suddenly leaned close with a fierce and scary expression that further explained why he’d been the most feared crime boss in the south.
“You aren’t just picking the kids, you’ll pick Morgan too and I want to see videos of his torture. I want to hear about his predicament in the news; I want it to be the only thing these prison officials can talk about. I want that his whore wife to bleed blood instead of tears, do you understand?”
Java sucked in a nervous gasp that passed for a gingered deep breath and nodded, further satisfying the crime boss.
“Good. Someone will be by to corroborate the plans and the brute force hired, then you’ll get part of your money,” he announced and stood from the table; he hadn’t even mentioned how much he was willing to give, but that was the least of Java’s problems.
Java finally risked looking at his cousin when King turned and left the table, his terror showed in the widening of his eyes, even Polycarp looked a bit worried, this was shaping up to be more than they had envisaged.
But in his usual jolly manner, he slapped Java’s shoulder and whispered fiercely, “Talk to Shaggy, he’ll know what to do,” then he followed King Edem, leaving his cousin behind feeling like a fish out of water.
Ahead Nursery and Primary School was Cyril Ndon’s pride and joy. It was the perfect cover for his past life; a life he was currently struggling not to return to.
Cyril Ndon aka Udo Ebenezer, was a natural con man and he embraced it, mentally assuring himself that it was his God given talent. If it were easy to talk people out of huge sums of money, then everybody would do it.
Since everybody couldn’t do it, he regarded himself as special to have such powers. He had met other con men but none could compare to him. Stories and lies came to him with ease; he was master at thinking on his feet, the charisma and sincerity needed to appear trust worthy was his skin.
At 5.5ft, dark complexioned and slightly chubby, Cyril had perfected the art of appearing sharply intelligent but humble; sincere but able and willing to tweak a few rules to make more money for his clients as an ‘investment banker’.
He was the over all package of blended opposites; the epitome of professional con.
After the job three years ago, the highest con job he’d ever pulled, he’d considered himself wise to retire, he was forty-five after all. And he’d also considered himself a genius to come up with a perfect cover for his past…a school.
Cyril had been faced with two options, a church or school. But a church would have required too much TV exposure and collaborations with other church overseers; at some point, one of the numerous people he’d conned would’ve seen him.
As a business man, Cyril hadn’t wanted a school for just the sake of being a school; he had put his experience to use and had made sure his school had what other schools had and what they lacked.
The feature that had blown parents away had been the sitting room. It was a hall with comfortable chairs, like what would be found at home and a giant TV screen. The sitting room was an area where kids whose parents were late to pick them up, retired to.
The staffs of the sitting room resumed work towards the end of the school day. They sat with the pupils, fed them snacks and drinks while waiting for their parents to come pick them up.
So far, over the year that Ahead Nursery and Primary school had operated, the sitting room was still the best feature, the selling point. Cyril was sure the other schools would begin copying the feature; at least, to be able to maintain their remaining pupils after so many had been transferred to his school.
But before they did that, he would have milked the happy parents enough and be able to come up with a fresh feature that would keep his school the darling of parents.
On the introduction day, after months of radio adverts, many parents had responded from curiosity and a tour of the school had convinced them that there was no better place to have their children.
Cyril had hinted at a hidden button that was only known to him. The button could automatically shut the gate and the main doors of the school building in case of any hostile attack.
Since kidnapping had become a prevalent problem in the state, parents were relieved to hear that their kids would be safe at school. Parents withdrew their children from other schools to Ahead in hordes. So much so, Cyril had to reject some pupils because the Ahead acceptable number in each class had been filled up.
Just as he’d planned, his school had sold out! He should have kicked back, relaxed and enjoyed his success, and he had. But of recent, Cyril was feeling the stirrings of the con fever, even though he didn’t need the money, his body needed the exciting thrill of the con.
Shaggy was just that…shaggy. Java had thought this the moment he’d opened his door for Polycarp’s go to man.
He had no idea what he’d been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this tall, lean muscled and overly hairy dude munching on roadside stick-meat. Shaggy was handsome, almost beautiful with an oblong face, heavy eyebrows over slanty eyes, pointed nose and a beard that rivaled that of Rick Ross.
That he was still handsome despite the beard didn’t go unnoticed. However, Java wondered how he breathed in there and shuddered at the thickness of his beard.
The hair on his head was barbed really low, almost to the skin, his arms sticking out from his t-shirt was hairy, Java knew this would be applicable all over his body. And it wasn’t sparse hair either, but black, luxurious, curly hair, like that of an Arab.
The kind of hair that usually got into zippers and wrist watch straps and pinched painfully; Java shook his head and refused to be obsessed with Shaggy’s hairiness.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked through the mashed meat in his mouth.
Java noticed his deep voice too and the fact that there hadn’t been greeting of any kind. “To where?” he asked before he could filter his thoughts.
Shaggy’s eyebrows went up while he continued munching, “To recruit guys of course,” he answered easily, an amused expression etching his face.
He was supposed to be involved?! – Java thought in alarm and fought to curb the instant breathlessness that assailed him. “Umm…but that’s not what we agreed on the phone…”
“I changed my mind,” he said curtly, while dragging another piece of meat from the long stick in his hand. Shaggy munched without a care in the world, his left hand rearranged the strap of the man purse hanging across his shoulder and over his lean chest.
The appetizing aroma of the fried stick meat wafted towards Java and his stomach rolled involuntarily, he was hungry, more so when he got nervous or scared.
“But…but that isn’t what Polycarp said,” he pointed out, trying to hide his fear.
“Polycarp isn’t here, is he?” Shaggy mocked and pulled the last piece of meat from the stick before flinging it over his shoulder, munching and looking at his oily hand as though contemplating what to do with it.
Java could have offered him water to wash his hands but he was currently not feeling accommodating. Shaggy was right though, Polycarp wasn’t there, he would have been the one running the show.
As though reading his mind, Shaggy said, “Polycarp would have babied you and shouldered the whole op but I’m not your cousin, man. I don’t know you and if this goes sideways, the guys need to know who they can poke for their money,” he said and grinned.
The fact that he was right didn’t prevent Java from being scared, angry and frustrated. The right thing to do would be to cut the cord and kill the operation instantly, but then Udo Ebenezer would have won. Besides, they had to be ready to receive King Edem’s steward in a week.
Java was afraid he might end up mysteriously dead if he raised King’s hope and then suddenly dash it. But it also meant that he was the face of the op, like Shaggy rightly said, if King’s money didn’t come through, the thugs they were about to recruit would be after his neck for the money.
With a deep, determined breath, Java went inside and returned dressed in a dark blue t-shirt that emphasized his tattoo ridden left arm, a black jean and sneakers. He pulled off his costly wrist watch and pulled on wrist bands instead. He would have loved to do away with his glasses but he would fall on his face if he tried it.
“Let’s go,” he snapped when he returned and found Shaggy still leaning on the opened front door.
The tall, hairy guy looked Java over and said nothing, then when he straightened to his full height, he looked at his oily hand again, “Hey man, you think you could offer me water to wash my hand?”
Java pointedly ignored him, slammed the door, locked it and pierced him with a sarcastic stare, “You can clean it on your jeans,” he muttered mutinously.
Shaggy laughed. It wasn’t the reaction Java had been expecting and his face showed slight shock.
“You just might survive this,” Shaggy chuckled and went down the short flight of stairs. He indeed cleaned his oily hand on his jeans and proceeded the way out of the rural neighborhood where Java’s house was located.
Java had no idea what he meant by that and was afraid to make him explain, he was sure he wouldn’t like the explanation; deep down he already knew the explanation and it didn’t bode well.
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
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