The black cartel

The black cartel

Col Butu’s office wasn’t as spacious as Smart expected, the colonel’s large body seem to occupy half the space. His bulge eyes scanned Smart from head to toe, it was so intense he literally wanted to melt away and disappear from this place. He would have preferred to be in prison as he had anticipated when was arrested an hour ago. He had just left the canteen where he usually had lunch, when soldiers apprehended him, booting him off the ground before tying his hands behind his back and taking him along with them in their jeep he couldn’t ask any questions as they didn’t seem interested. Young man do you sell drugs? The Col’s voice echoed in his head. Noo – sir! Smart stammered. Information reaching me and the evidence before me suggests otherwise. What information and evidence sir? Smart asked in the most saintly voice he could muster. It is not for you to verify, I have been watching you for weeks now and if I were to follow protocol you will be behind bars right away or rather short dead. I swear sir I don’t have a clue of what you are saying. Even though Smart was terrified he wasn’t ready to start accepting responsibility for crimes he knew he was guilty of, at least not without visible evidence besides this was Nigeria the evidence is the amount of bribe that would be asked of you. The Col had guessed right when he thought the criminal might deny. He had passed his first test without knowing it, well let’s see how he will fare with the reminder of the trials and information he could generate the Col said in his mind. He then said to Smart you’re just a small fish swimming alone in a big ocean young man, I own the ocean you see. I would have you report back in two days time we do have a lot to talk about. I would be watching you don’t make any wrong move. You can go home now. Smart was totally terrified and confused, he wanted to ask questions but he knew soldiers and orders, as he left the office he felt his feet and hands bonded with some invisible rope and a camera hovering over him.
Maria woke to her first dawn in Africa, from her hotel room in Lagos she could see the sun rising lazily, it’s golden rays shooting fort from beneath the blue cloud. She recollected her mission carefully, her boss had assured her that her life is in no danger but was only a bargain chip to a business spanning into millions. The only part that disturbed her greatly was getting involved with the Colonel romantically to obtain information, it would have been okay to fuck a different man every other day in Mexico at her boss wish, it was her job, she was paid a good sum to do it, but to be involved with an unknown man in a foreign country for a whole year scared her to the bones. When Don Juan gave orders you dare not disobey, she shifted her worries to the man she was to meet in the next five hours, was he going to be brutal like her clients in Mexico who always ride her like a donkey. Even though she hated her life she was grateful to Don Juan for giving her one.
Carefully she unpacked her luggage, from the many folded clothing she choose a red gown that stopped just above her kneels. Men and red clothing she thought, it works always. She checked her self in the mirror one more time, the gown showing her enormous hips perfectly. In two hours she was aboard an airplane headed for Port Harcourt.
Smart couldn’t sleep; he sat on the edge of his bed in deep thoughts. Young man you sell drugs? The words kept echoing in his mind. Yes he did sell drugs but not just enough quantity to raise the military’s attention, No he wasn’t a drug dealer, it was just suppose small time stuff, buy a little sell a little, and make some extra cash while doing his nysc. He stared at the remaining stash on his desk, he felt a twitch in his stomach, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to sell dope anymore, someone must have leaked the information to the soldiers, it must be from the circle of three, he had created enough buffer to protect him from local consumers. I have to be careful from now on he thought, that means no more supplies till things cool off. Meanwhile he had to identify the muse that leaked the information. There was only three people whom he supplied directly, Mike, Cyprus and Bobby. Now he had to meet them one by one before calling a general meeting of the three. It was almost 3am, he had not slept a bit, his back arched as he tried to stretch, and he hissed cursing the idiot that leaked the information to soldiers under his breath. That fool must pay.
The colonel stared at his watch impatiently it was near 1:30 am and Chief Ohams hasn’t arrived, the once lively bar was now almost deserted. It provided a perfect cover, he had sent his orderly home hours ago and drove himself to this place, he wanted everything to be perfect, not that he didn’t trust his boys he just didn’t trust anybody. He was about to light his second stick of cigarette for the night when the Chief Ohams took the seat directly opposite beaming an obvious fake smile. Apologies my friend I had to be sure the press didn’t follow me here, there has been lots of musing around these days as if the many security challenges we are facing don’t keep them busy enough. The Colonel face was impassive even though he managed a smile he was all about business and wanted to get to that point as soon as possible. Everything has been arranged chief, the first batch of the package would arrive by weekend that would only establish our connection of course, in due time if our client is really reputable there would be more shipments. Very well Colonel am only worried about your boys, this is big someone might try to blackmail us, I assure Chief he will six feet below before he even had the slightest chance. Then let’s toast to success, once we successfully dispatch this batch I will make more funds available. As always you will have your returns Chief. I think that would be it for now. Col Butu watched the short figure of a man stroll away moments later he heard his car engine come to life. Even though he hated the man the money was too good for emotional sentiments and it was all too easy for him, before the year runs out he would be rich enough to retire.
The phone kept ringing to Bobby’s annoyance, he hated early morning calls with a sleepy eyes peeped at the phone screen, Smart’s name brought his senses back at once, something was wrong he thought at once. Bobby spotted Smart almost immediately as he approached their usual meeting point, a big tree just behind his apartment, he scouted the area in one single motion to be sure Smart was alone. There was no time for pleasantries as each wore a worried look, Shit man its 5 am what’s so important that can’t wait till sunrise, Bob someone sang to the military about our business, Bobby’s hands was already trembling and he stammered a bit when he spoke, how bad is the situation? I suggest we get out of town immediately. Relax man if it was that bad I won’t be here talking to you, I’d probably be dinner to a thousand mosquitoes in one of the prison rooms. But we will all soon be! Let’s leave town before they get to us. I am afraid they already did, I was apprehended today by soldiers. And they let you go just like that, not really but they don’t seem interested in placing me behind bars. I don’t understand man, you mean they just let you walk home. Yes! Why arrest you then? I will find out in due time bro. Right now I just want to know who the fucking snitch is. Bob I hope you have nothing to do with this because if you do it will be your head before mine. Come on Smart! You know I’d be the last person to snitch on the team besides we go way back before this business. Alright I trust you man that’s why I called you to help me figure out who did, Cyprus or Mike? We have to watch their moves and I am leaving that task to you, I’d like to know who they talk to, if any of them have any soldier friend, also I’d like to know everything about their women, if any of them is connected to the military. I will deal with the soldiers myself. Alright I’d keep an eye on them. One more thing Bob no more supplies for now till I am sure what we are dealing with. Am game as always Smart. Whatever you need!
It wasn’t until 7 pm that Col Butu called Maria to expect him at her suite right away, she had expected to meet him earlier but he explained he had a conference to attend, the choice of her hotel room was based on secrecy of the operation, They had to be careful not to attract unnecessary attention he had told her. Maria stared at her self in the mirror, a wary smile lined her lips, her mind reflected on how life has really changed in such a short while, two years ago she was a university student, she was going to obtain her degree in mass communication, she wanted to be a presenter she had often mimicked Christina Ampour to her boyfriend Carlos and he told she was going to be perfect on the screen she believed him but her whole life changed when one day the police called her for some questioning, she thought Carlos was in trouble again. It was not to be as she was led to her home to identify the bodies of her mother, father and sister. They were all tied to the dinning chairs and shot through the head. She felt the ground fleeing from her feet, the shock didn’t allow her to shade tears, she was grateful though her brother was safe, but her affection towards him soon turned to scorn when police investigations revealed he had ran away with large sum of money belonging to an el cartel. Her family were killed as a result and even her life was in danger too so she had to run away, started sleeping in night clubs, to earn a little money she became a stripper, it during one of her many nights at different clubs she met Don Juan, he took an interest in her and soon she was solely working for him. The gentle but consistent tap on the door revived Maria to reality; she took one last look at her reflection in the mirror, perfect! she thought. Col Butu was always about business with whom ever he had an engagement, it was a standard he had set for himself. The huge man’s eye scanned Maria from head to toe, it sent down chills down her spin. She smiled at him to ease the tension that was building up already inside of her. Welcome to Africa the Col said almost immediately as he stepped in, he motioned her to sit. Maria assumed the position of a guest, I hope you like your temporary accommodation or would you like a change? Yeah sure I don’t think it is necessary Col. I have been briefed about you Maria, now I want you to brief me about your boss don Juan. What do you want to know Col, specific answers require specific questions. Everything Maria, I want to know everything but more specifically is Don Juan capable of 1 million dollar shipment of drug and guns? Col my boss is a billionaire even if he won’t ever make Forbes list, the problem I’d like to think is do we have the market for our products? I’d like to think so Maria, when next you report to Don Juan tell him we do have a deal.
Col my boss said to tell you this in person he is a serious business man who hates to be short changed, Maria your boss’s reputation preside his message. I must tell you Col he practices the act of revenge religiously. I like your tone but I hate your choice of words, I get the message you are trying to pass across but I hate threats. Now that would be all for today, see you in two days, if you need anything call me directly.
Smart couldn’t sleep; his mind was too busy to be calm. Images of Col Butu kept flashing in the dark, what does the Col want from him? There was no option of a military connection he had not exploited in his thought, yet he could not establish a major lead. There was too much at stake if he was to take to his heels. Life was not this complicated a year ago, he was just another stranded graduate waiting on the nation to call him up for service, even though he lived from one pocket money to another, life was fun. He was so used to getting broke that it didn’t matter when he had no money he simply got through it like every other day. Every day was almost like the one before that sometimes the only difference was that he wore different clothing or he drinks one bottle of beer more than he did the day before. Even though he smoked marijuana most days it never crossed his mind to sell drugs, it was something thugs did, there was always dangers involved, the type that involved floating bodies in lagoons, how ever his resolution cracked when he encountered an old friend who came to visit relatives from Lagos. Few days of hanging out with him had Smart asking many questions, he was so loaded with naira wads and spent them without worries. They drank choice wines, had numerous flings which he sponsored, he was always parting him with little amounts of money, he didn’t even have to ask for it. Eli how did you make so much money? Smart asked with surprised filled eyes, you’re into yahoo yahoo business I guess? Hahahaha no my friend I just sell the good stuff. What is so good? He brought out a wrap of marijuana and sniffed it, this is money my good friend. Raw cash! Wait you mean you sell drugs? Common that’s way too dangerous, yeah in Malaysia maybe but it is legalized on the streets of Lagos. Your crazy Eli, how can you be dealing dope after graduating from the university? Do you have any job waiting for me, besides I just want to make a little money then am off. You could make some too, naaah not me I can’t sell dope, that’s where you got it all wrong Smart it is way too easy, besides nobody is looking for the small dealers on the street, they go after the big fishes from whom the can get enough bribe. You would soon be going to Nysc camp; it is always a good place to sell dope. Before anybody realizes someone is dealing dope your stash is gone, your money would be in your pocket. It sounded a good idea at the time, went smooth as an operation, Smart made triple his investment but there was never going to be enough money, he kept investing it all and gaining it all. One day Eli called him, brother I have hit the real gold mine a real money spinner. Fill me in Eli I don’t have a clue of what you mean, Smart how does you making your first million in 2 weeks sound? Sounds like a film trick my brother. This is real, we going to be dealing cocaine now! Are you mad Eli? How do we even get the supplies without the law on our ass in no time? Just like we do with weed soft peddling, think about it Smart, I will call you tomorrow to know your stance as for me am already on course.
Every worries smart had was erased a week later when the supplies came, the product sold like wild fire, the money was flowing in so rapidly that he didn’t have time to even think about the law, his three close men was the buffer between him and the final consumers, they had buffers too. Most people were so excited to try out the new stuff in town, of course it was a small time business in the drug world but the turn over was consistent they all came back for more. Even though Smart didn’t make his 1 million naira in two weeks he knew it was only a matter of time before he hit his first milestone. It was a wild dream that was going to come true till the Col struck.
The bar was almost deserted expect for a few late drinkers like smart who littered around beneath different thatched huts, each roofing was made of thatch in a circular shape the size of a large umbrella, the flooring was ruff surfaced tiles it had no walls but pillars supporting the structures. The pillars were decorated with pictures of different wild animals. Smart sat alone in one of the corners thinking about his appointment with the Col, it was only a night away and he had no lead on what information was leaked to the military. Running away kept popping up in his mind but he knew his life would be ruined. He was a corps member and the Col probably knew that, how will his parents feel if they found out that their first son is on the run for drug charges. His mother would die! Nipping the problem in the bud seems the only viable option. He tried calling his friend Eli for like the hundredth time but his number was still switched off. The waiter came around again he ordered his 7th bottle of Guinness extra smooth, he stared at the pack of Benson and hedges on his table with disgust he picked up a stick from the pack, hissed before tucking it between his lips, the lighter wouldn’t spark up flame. One last effort got him puffing, he looked up and a lady was standing in front of him, she must have literally appeared out of nowhere. First instinct was to scream but he wasn’t that drunk, can I use your light? Maria was eager to walk back to her room, she had misplaced hers and it was too late to buy. Sure miss, thrice she struck yet no flame. Here use mine he offered her his stick. She turned to leave after lighting her stick. But he obliged her to stay, let’s share a drink please, am not he hooker she replied sharply. I never said you are! His sense of humor attracted her but it was excitement of knowing someone on a personnel level in a new country that made her stay. Even though Smart was drunk the surprise his eyes emitted made them bright. Am Smart maim, Maria she relied curtly. Are you Italian? Nope! I am from Mexico. ‘’Mexicans and drugs’’. Smart intended that as a joke but Maria wasn’t smiling. Maria totally regretted sitting down to talk to him. Not wanting any further personnel question and answer session. She stood up and left. Hey am sorry, did I offend you? Smart wanted to run after her but thought otherwise. He looked at his watch it was 12:45 am, the waiter came with his order he declined, paid his bills and made for home. He had forgotten about tomorrow, his thought shifted to why the white lady left.
Maria wished she never left her room that evening, now she must leave this hotel for another with hope she didn’t encounter the inquisitive stranger again. She hated people that asked too many question, she had gotten his attention he was sure to return and find her. Which will in turn cost him his life; she hated the thought of another young man lying along the street dead because of her. It had happened a few times in Mexico, but they deserved their deaths she thought for they had tried to take advantage of her. But this fellow made quite an impression of a sense of humor, he was just too eager. Tomorrow she will complain to Col about the food and request a new suite in a different hotel.
As a last resort Smart assembled his three right hand men in his apartment at noon, they sat as friends, there was enough meat and drink on the table, after which they smoked a marijuana pot, it was near 7 pm when the Col called him to come over, it was at same hotel he was at last night, Smart now told his men all about the military involvement in their business, if I don’t return tonight I might as well be in prison and even then I will know which one of you here sang to they soldiers, I will give my orders from prison. If I do come back still I must have found out the truth, that person better be ready for hell. Before he left he pulled aside his close friend “. ” If anybody tries to leave he is the traitor, bind him till I come back he left for the meeting in his mind he was certain he will return, his thought laid with the bargain the Col wanted. What he didn’t tell his close friend however was that if nobody tries to leave then the traitor was certainly him, it was a crude judgment but he trusted his instincts. He was directed to the swimming pool side of the hotel, it was almost a deserted area at night. It was mostly occupied by important personalities at this hour security personals swamped the area. A soldier lead Smart to the table where the Col sat, he motioned Smart to sit opposite him to which he obliged. To the Orderly he said, Go and bring my orders with two bottles of Heineken, I hope that’s your brand he stared at Smart briefly. Smart was too tongue tied to speak. With the Orderly gone Smart sat alone for the first time alone with the Col, his eyes was laden with fear as the Col’s bulge eyes scanned him for seconds. Why do you do drugs? I was suppose to flush you out till I realized you were a corps member that why I didn’t carry out that order immediately. Your little supplier in Lagos is death, so is everybody connected to Chief Edet, he stepped on the wrong person’s foot. Now give me a reason to let you live. Eli was dead! Everything started to add up little by little, his phone had been off since a day before the soldiers had apprehended him but Eli had assured him they had the military to protect them incase of emergency even though there won’t be direct their direct involvement how then is it that they are the ones hunting them. I notice your disturbed by your friends passing, it is classified information, and you never heard that understand! Our kind of business is war, to grow you need to acquire more territories and to do that blood must flow. If you play your cards well however you will always be on the winning side. Just then the orderly returned with two plates of pepper fish, two bottles of Heineken and glasses on a large tray, the bottles was in a small crate, the fish was garnished with vegetables and pepper sauce. A plate, a bottle and a glass was placed before each, the Col gave the orderly the rest of the night off, a waiter brought tissues, liquid soup and two bowls of water. I had a long day and so hungry you happened to be my guest so share a meal with me, smart couldn’t refuse for it was almost an order.
Maria was surprised to see the young man trying to find out about her last night seated with the Col, when the Col told her he was around if their was anything she needed she had gone to meet to secure permission to move to another hotel, she had wondered the reason she was going to give him but approaching him she didn’t need one anymore, she had found a reason to stay at last someone on the inside. She couldn’t wait to get to her room to report her findings to Don Juan. She made a light complaint of having no local currency in her possession and the Col gave her 10000 naira but promised send someone to help her change her notes, perhaps he could help he said, pointing at Smart. Okay she replied causal and left. Smart sat tongue tied everything was happening so fast he wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or awake to these realities.
At her room Maria waited as patiently as the phone kept buzzing, a sleepy but firm Don Juan voice answered from the order end, damn! You bitch I am trying to rest, am sorry boss, but something came up, what couldn’t wait for 6 hours. We have got an insider, when Don Juan answered his voice was filled with eagerness, is he clean? I don’t know how connected but a good bet he seemed. Alright bring him in but keep him aloof on the matter at hand. What about the Col? Proceed as causal as possible. Hey Maria don’t fuck this up. Good night boss. The line went dead, she was eager for day break, finally she might not stay up to a year, and her mission would soon be over.
It was half past 1am when Smart walked through the sitting room door, the house was in a total mess, nothing was in it proper place save the cushions and television set. His men were fast asleep in different corners not wanting to wake them he slipped past. He had a lot on his mind already.
On his bed his mind kept wandering around the puzzle confronting him, what was the Mexican lady’s connection with the Col, certainly his mistress he thought even though it didn’t quite appear so? There were other pressing matters than who the Col beds at night. Eli was dead; his name was on a cartel death list on certain assumption of his connection to some Chief Edet. Certainly more further supplies wouldn’t be coming, how was he to cooperate with the Col on his quest, as it was requested of him to point out the sub dealer to Chief Edet, he needed to be flushed the Col had explained, it was his first mission, a kind of initiation. He accepted without knowing how to contact the man who handed him a parcel every Saturday night at 9th avenue. There was no phone number, no address, and no name. The Col was kind enough to help him with the last piece of information. He went by the nickname lone shark whereas his real name was Luis. Tomorrow he had an appointment with the Col’s mistress; he so much delighted in the task since it means having a chance to offer her apologies upsetting her the other night….. To be continued.


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