THE CHIEF OF HER PERSONAL SECURITY( Part 2)
Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema
What happens when a retired commando becomes the bodyguard of his former girlfriend who is vying for the governorship of the most important state in a volatile West African country?
Dandra and Gani swung into action as soon as Gani reported for duty. With quiet, almost unobtrusive, efficiency they took charge of their principal’s security. Ronke was pleasantly surprised that they did not interfere unduly with her daily life. “Plain in sight is the best strategy,” said the former Major. But he insisted, and got Ronke’s grudging permission, to run a thorough vetting of her few personal staff. Ronke had a few personal security men engaged from a reputable private guard service. With her connections she could have gotten police security but she wisely refrained from doing so. Dandra silently ran background checks on the guards and restricted the range of their operations. The guard commander wanted to balk but Ronke’s gimlet eyes, Dandra’s friendly but firm disposition, and a telephone call from his company head office telling him to comply with their client’s wishes kept him in check.
Ronke suggested to Gani to take up accommodation in her palatial compound. “There is ample space for your family and this place needs the presence of children.”
Gani scratched his head. Her offer would help a lot. He had his own apartment opposite Dandra’s place and went home every weekend. But pretty soon the campaigns would begin and his shuttling would stop. Then there was the restaurant. Lola, his wife, ran the place alone now he was on the job.
Ronke noticed his concern and smiled.
“I am not putting pressure on you. You can talk things over with Madam. Be assured I will respect your decision.”
“She is a good person,” Gani said to his former commander as they shared plates of jellof rice and beans for supper before commencing their night patrol. It was his conclusion to his account of Ronke’s offer earlier in the day.
Dandra smiled. “She is.”
“I pray she becomes governor.”
Dandra shrugged. “Oh, well. Power has a way of changing people, and often not for good.”
“That is your history degree talking, Major.” Gani knew his friend had narrowly missed a first-class in his B.A. History programme at the university before joining the army on a short service commission.
Dandra smiled and downed a spoonful of food. His eyes beamed pleasantly. Gani sipped some water.
“The babe get shape, abi.” His low voice was tinged with salacious appreciation. Dandra looked at him in mock horror.
“Lola must hear this.”
“Lola knows the kind of man she married. That’s why her hips are always busy.”
Both men roared with laughter. Dandra recovered first.
“Old boy, better take up our oga’s offer before konji does you in.”
“And you, nko? Don’t tell me you have taken the oath of celibacy.”
Dandra hid his thoughts behind the glass of water he lifted to his lips. He had steadfastly maintained a professional posture since he and Gani got into harness four weeks ago. It was tough but he ensured he was not in any compromising situation with Ronke. But alone at night his blood became hot as he knew all he had to do was send her a Whatsapp message. Matters were not made easy by the fact that Ronke flashed him loaded looks when she thought he was not looking and had even sent him the kind of Whatsapp messages that were not good for a red-blooded single man. His gentle but firm replies had calmed her. But the Ronke he knew would not accept “no” forever.
“She likes you, boss.”
Dandra nearly choked on the meat he was chewing. He could not hide the astonishment on his face. Gani did not laugh as he would have but a smile played on his lips.
“What makes you say that?”
Gani waved his hand. “Stop stalling, sir. Those looks you exchange when you think nobody is looking.” He paused thoughtfully. “Why you? Yes, you are damned good at what you do but why did she chose you? How did she find you?”
“Is my being good not enough?”Dandra wondered why he was dodging. Gani was no fool. Maybe it was just a desire not to reduce Ronke’s image in his subordinate’s eyes.
Gani put down his spoon and held his eyes with a piercing, utterly frank gaze.
“You are my commander and my friend. The best guy I have ever known in and out of uniform. But you are just a man. If both of you feel anything real for each other go for it. She may be the one to fill the vacuum in your life.”
“Emotions mess up professionalism. You know that better than anyone else.”
The former Staff Sergeant stood up.
“The choice is yours, sir. Njideka has long remarried and is living in Germany. All these one night stands will do your graying hair no good. And we can protect Lagona’s next governor effectively with your love.”
Dandra could not hold back the deep frown that creased his face. But as Gani came to swift attention and saluted him he burst out laughing.
“Yeye man,” he said.
“If you say so. We have a patrol to make.”
Ronke was seated on her king-size bed, flipping through the pages of Robert Greene’s ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ without reading a thing. With a wan smile she shut the book and placed it on the bedside stand. I should have collected his other classic ‘The Art of Seduction,’ she thought.
She lay down and let her thoughts roam. But they inevitably settled on the man downstairs. For the millionth time she asked herself if she had done the right thing. She could have gotten a damned good security man from anywhere. She could afford a former SAS officer if need be. So why zap to the past? A past in the shape of an angular man who had taken her so uninhibitedly in what was supposed to be his job interview? Only to become an African Jet Li in his own version of ‘The Bodyguard from Beijing.’
But why do I want him so? Him in this bed, or goddamn it, me in his bed? He said you are a virus in his blood. He has kept the virus pretty well under control in his immune system. But face it, girl, you have not.
She sighed sadly and wished she had not sought his services. Since her husband died she had largely steered clear of men, except for a discreet but torrid affair with an American lawyer during those hectic days she was consolidating Apex Rock. You probably have a special itch for lawyers, she mused with a smile. Richman was terrific in bed but he was married and unwilling to leave his wife. Ronke knew she would not have married him even if he divorced his wife.
Her life had been well wrapped around her business, her child and recently politics. But now she had brought in an unwelcome addition? Unwelcome? She sighed again, steadfastly ignoring the vivid replay of their passionate explosion in her guesthouse suite.
Her phone beeped. Good Lord, this was almost 2a.m. She reached for it. In spite of her best effort a stupidly happy smile lit up her face when she saw it was a Whatsapp call from Dandra. He had never called her via Whatsapp before. The few times he had called since he took the job were through regular mobile lines.
“Are you alone?” Dandra asked softly.
“Yes,” she replied in the same quiet tone.
“Mind if I come over?”
“Not at all.”
An hour and half later, as the moon disappeared behind the approaching clouds of early dawn, Ronke was lying in the most ungubernatorial manner half on top of the former soldier, the blaze in their bodies satiated.
“What made you change your mind?” she whispered.
Dandra shrugged. “Gani.”
He told her about their conversation. Ronke listened patiently and kissed him at the end, her eyes shining.
“He is a great guy.” She paused. “But what is going on between us? Merely scratching an old itch?”
“I wish I knew.”
“Well, we can’t hide anymore.”
Dandra smiled. “I don’t want to. But won’t it hurt your aspirations?”
“Most of my rivals, including the married ones, are no saints.”
“Yes, but you are a woman.”
Ronke’s eyes blazed with anger. She got a grip on her voice but the whiplash was present when she spoke.
“So you hold me up to some bloody double standards?”
Dandra silenced her with an effortless sweep that nestled her under him. His lips held hers till her anger subsided. Then he brought his face a few inches above hers.
“Honey, you know me better than that. I never wanted to hurt you back then; I don’t want to start now.”
Unplanned tears filled Ronke’s eyes as she remembered how they parted. Perhaps this was an opportunity to heal her wounded soul. Dandra saw the water travelling down her cheeks and became troubled. He had never gotten used to women’s tears no matter the circumstances. He held her in a firm embrace and she wrapped herself around him.
Before Dandra left her bed they made a decision.
Akeema and Mr. Paul were in one of the political leader’s penthouses sipping cognac three days before the campaigns for the Lagona state governorship elections.
Akeema was glowing with satisfaction. Abraham Abbas was already reeling from the carefully placed body blows from the godfather. His TV station had been shut down; the banks were after him, and his daughter had been forced to relocate abroad as lurid tales of her abortion flooded the airwaves and social media. Well placed bribes and gloved threats had persuaded a few nubile actresses and other celebrities who had been recipients of the POP governorship candidate’s favour to be forthcoming, even adding fictional but scurrilous details. Poor Mrs. Abbas’ state of mind was better imagined than experienced. POP in Lagona was in a freefall.
Some of the other smaller candidates were so amendable to Akeema’s overtures that they made it clear they were ready to withdraw their candidature, despite the provisions of the electoral law. The generous gbem he had deposited in bank accounts of their choice and assurances that the incoming administration of Dr. Wellington would be good to them was enough to make them turn a blind eye to some yeye law. Dr. Wellington had accompanied the godfather on these nocturnal visits to the candidates. The candidates were not fools: their parties were pretty weak on the ground, and their hierarchies saw the whole political drama as big opportunity to cash out.
Two of the ‘baby eagles’ (as Akeema called the weaker candidates) had the temerity to reject Akeema’s offer. The godfather was not bothered. He knew how ill-mannered some of these young pups could be. With avuncular smiles he repeated his offer and got more scorn. Dr. Wellington and Mr. Paul who accompanied him quaked silently when he courteously took his leave with a remark that ‘the gate of heaven is not permanently open.’
He advised the pliant candidates to keep up a façade of contesting. “After all we are not running a one-party system,” he had remarked amidst rich chuckles as the wise young men, now fierce loyalists, poured him glasses of vintage Napoleon brandy. The game plan was for them to legitimately and gracefully bow out on the eve of the elections after publicly calling on their supporters to vote for Dr. Wellington. More gbem were deposited in their already bulging accounts to cover expenses they would incur in the course of the campaigns.
“So what happens to Francis Atama and Adewale Jones?” Mr. Paul asked conversationally. He hoped it was not the final solution. It was a bit too early in the day for that.
Akeema’s smile disappeared and his face became an inscrutable mask.
“We are not barbarians, my dear.” He paused. “Adolf Hitler paid the price for relishing final solutions. These are young men and like all youths, they need to be taught the ways of the world. Atama’s mother is still alive. I hear she is called the mother general of that social club he miscalls a political party. Make her disappear efficiently, effortlessly and cleanly. I am sure Adewale will get the message.”
The legal adviser nodded.
“But Atama’s mother may have recollections.”
The leader looked at him as if he was a little boy who failed a basic arithmetic test.
“I hope my learned friend has not forgotten the technicalities of the law.” There was humour in his eyes but the deadpan eyes sent a small man somersaulting down Mr. Paul’s spine. The legal adviser was no chicken but even he occasionally quailed before his master’s utter ruthlessness.
“Not at all, my lord,” he answered with forced jocularity.
“Good.” Akeema reached for his box of cigars but his man Friday swiftly came to his service, took out one, clipped it and lit up for the leader who inhaled sweet smoke twice before speaking.
“How is our CUP girl doing? Still bonking her macho bodyguard? Maybe he will bang her into giving up her pipe dream.” Both men released bellyful guffaws though Mr. Paul wisely made his lower than his master’s. Akeema got a grip on himself.
“Set up a meeting with her. A very private one. On her own terms, if need be.”
Mr. Paul could not hide his surprise.
“Won’t she misconstrue such a meeting?”
Akeema waved his right hand expansively.
“The meeting is for our benefit, not hers. So far she has spurned all our overtures. It is about time to make her an offer she will not refuse.”
Mr. Paul knew he should not have asked. But curiosity, the type that killed the proverbial cat, got the better of him.
“What is the offer, Leader?”
Akeema laughed gently.
“You younger generation. Always so impatient.” He switched to pidgin a smooth, educated voice. “A beg, go arrange the meeting sharp sharp. The babe fine somehow, sha.”
“Leader! Leader!” The legal adviser’s admiration was unaffected. There was that something about his master that never ceased to fascinate him.
“Yes oh.” He switched back to the polished version of the language of Shakespeare.
“Talk to our agent in her camp. She should be ready to double her efforts, now that the campaigns are here.”
“Yes, my leader.”
With a bow Mr. Paul quietly left the room. Akeema picked up a slim blue file on the exquisitely carved table in front of him. It was a detailed report on Dandra and Gani which their reliable agent had provided. The leader had perused it and used his contacts in the relevant corridors of power to ascertain the veracity of its contents. If only there is a way to turn them, he thought. He liked having such men on his side. Oh well, we will see.
He put Dandra and Gani out of his mind and began to plan for his meeting with Ronke.