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Oct/Nov 2011 Fiction

The Wise Thing

by Crispin Oduobuk

Mosaic artwork by Laura Robbins

Mosaic artwork by Laura Robbins


When the Ernesto twins invited Kunam to a business meeting soon after his father's death, he went because he wanted to know if the elder twin, Angela, could still make his heart flutter as she used to while they were teenagers. At the end of their PowerPoint presentation, the Ernestos smiled expectantly at Kunam, and it struck him that though he had no clue what the hell they'd been talking about, he could hear his heart revving like a cranky old Mercedes.

Angela said, "So you'll agree, you coming in with us is a win-win investment, yes?"

Kunam frowned. His last girlfriend, four months now since he heard from her, used to tell him that frowning made him look like a too-serious Denzel Washington. He hoped the ex had been telling the truth. He didn't want the Ernestos to figure out that he hadn't been paying attention. In any case, he felt certain they were merely being polite and didn't really expect questions. Their toothpaste advert smiles and Angela's last line hinted at just one possible conclusion—this deal would make even a Saudi oil Sheik so much richer. Kunam wondered if he should mention his lack of ambition, as his late father would have put it.

He knew the Ernestos were scrutinizing him with the eagerness of yuppie businesspeople. Angela and Angelo radiated self-confidence and desire for success in smart gray suits that made Kunam's short sleeves and velvety jeans look impoverished. How ironic, he thought, that the skinny twins could make him who had the build of a champion sportsman feel like an amateur athlete who'd failed to measure up at pro level.

They, no doubt, had made the cut. Here they were, twinned as much by their demeanor of achievement as by their peculiar androgynous visages. He remembered how their faces used to spark debates about their gender and related matters. A smile began to relax his lips. The twins began to smile back. He realized it would seem as if he'd deliberately misled them, so he checked himself and straightened up.

What did his casualness matter if they were courting him? Though the Ernestos were of mixed parentage, they were still Nigerians and would respect the three years he had on them. He crossed his legs. "I don't see where I'm needed," he said. "You seem all set."

"Is the profit sharing plan not good enough?" Angelo asked, raising lavish eyebrows.

Kunam wondered how Angelo could still sound like the choirboy he'd been two decades ago. A thought about people who skipped puberty crossed his mind. He flicked the thought away along with a piece of lint on his jeans and allowed his gaze to wander.

The office had belonged to Angela and Angelo's father, now also late like Kunam's dad. Where they had made the presentation had been set up as a lounge: padded leather armchairs, an ornate center table, and a Persian rug. An air conditioner cooled the spacious room. Yet it still had the ambience of a half-forgotten warehouse—underused and ghostly.

Kunam turned back to the twins as Angela smoothened her hair, which she'd pulled back in a severe ponytail, and leaned towards him.

"The catalyst is fiscal leverage," she said, her firm tone no less musical than Angelo's. "You have it. We don't. It's the same reason why our dad needed yours."

She interlocked her slender fingers, a gesture Kunam found subtly seductive.

Fiscal leverage, he thought, licking his lips. Why couldn't businesspeople just speak plain English? "But you mentioned profits," he ventured, searching for a response that sounded interested.

"Oil services yield good returns, but nothing fantastic," Angelo said with deliberate slowness, as if Kunam might have difficulty understanding issues that went beyond the basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter. "To make the sort of profit that you can easily plough back, you need to be lifting the oil itself."

Kunam gave them his Denzel grin. "So why don't you?" he asked.

Angelo shook his head. "Too much wahala," he said in pidgin. "Not just the politics of winning a bloc but the processes of drilling, storing, and shipping."

Kunam nodded and studied the desk behind Angelo. The grand table looked like it had seen service on a luxury cruise liner before being retired to wait out its last days here.

Angelo released invisible doves. "I mean, you can be stuck for years exploring, and once you finally sink a well and get started, these days there are militants to manage. Only really big players can afford the hassles."

"I see," Kunam said and smiled at Angelo, who immediately smiled back. Kunam swallowed and glanced at Angela, then at a picture on the wall of their father and another man with his face partially covered by a wide straw hat. On the same wall, a painting of an ancient church with imposing spires vaguely hinted at the Ernestos' half-European heritage. A discrete side door clearly gave away a private bathroom.

Angela unlocked her fingers to form an arch. "You see, we don't want it to get around, but our father didn't exactly leave things in the best possible state."

In his shielded way, Kunam studied her. What he saw had nothing to do with the state in which her father had left things. Her lips were thin and painted with a color that reminded him of a ripe tangerine. He imagined kissing her. She held his gaze for a few seconds, then blinked self-consciously and lowered her eyes.

Kunam shifted his gaze to Angelo, who did virtually the same thing, only Angelo's lips seemed to part just a bit, a feminine reaction to an anticipated kiss.

"We're in a precarious situation," Angela said, her voice softening with each word. "Basic stuff like PR outreach to smooth our way to contract renewals, and even paying staff require heavy outlays that we're simply not liquid enough to execute. And we're indebted to some suppliers that are threatening foreclosure. If that happens, it's all over for us."

Angelo's eyes became glazy. "Kunam, we need your help."

Kunam stood up. Angela looked at him and lifted her chin. He sucked in his stomach and walked over to one of the windows. Four floors down, he saw Port Harcourt traffic crawling about in typical confusion while a drizzle made a mockery of the sun's glare.

He'd read somewhere that you shouldn't do business with people you're attracted to because your feelings were bound to get in the way. Even as he'd read that, he'd laughed at the worthless advice. Who were those that went into business with people they disliked? Sociopaths? As far as he knew, normal people did business with those they fancied.

He reasoned that his hesitation had nothing to do with the money. Then he quickly told himself to stop lying—it had everything to do with the money. He didn't want to touch it. Who would have thought that his father, the frugal, Bible-quoting elder, had amassed that much money? A niggling thought as to why his father would leave it all to him, a son he hadn't seen in over ten years wouldn't leave Kunam's mind.

He couldn't stop imagining a booby-trap wired to the money. That would be so like his father. Payback for disregarding his advice. When Kunam had decided to pursue a career in computers, his father, while still smiling his trademark grandfatherly smile that Kunam knew to be a mask, had all but disowned him.

"Every young person in Port Harcourt wants to be a petro-chemical engineer," his father had said. "You want to repair computers. Did termites eat your brains?"

That night Kunam got another in a series of lectures about his total lack of ambition. In the morning, he awoke with two goals implanted in his mind. He quietly left home, planning to see the world—his first new ambition. He never intended to return.

He forced himself to focus on the present. "I hope there's nothing illegal in any of it."

"Kunam!" Angela and Angelo exclaimed as one.

"Our families have been friends forever," Angelo said.

"Our fathers did business together," Angela said.

"They died together," Angelo added. "We are family."

Kunam raised his hands in mock surrender. "I'm just saying. I don't know anything about my father's business."

"Still..." Angela dragged out the word and left it floating, an unsaid accusation that nonetheless required defense.

Kunam faced them. "I mentioned it because I prefer to keep my nose clean."

Angelo bit his lower lip and gave Angela a curious look. She ignored her twin and held Kunam's gaze.

"We're not into anything illegal," she said. "Ernesto Technical provides support services to oil companies and that's that."

Kunam stuffed his hands in his pockets. His gut instinct told him that touching the money would spring whatever trap the old man had laid for him. Yet, could he just stand by and watch Angela and Angelo go bust?

He turned back to the window. Suddenly, from the recesses of his memory, the lines of an old beer advert came to him: "At times like this, you are happier with..."

He almost laughed. He had a difficult decision to make, and his mind chose to play him a beer advert. Maybe he needed a beer. He dismissed the idea, inhaled deeply, and went back to the twins.

"How much are we talking about?"

"Most of our business is dominated in dollars." Angela said. "We need five million."

Kunam almost whistled. With five million dollars, he would be able to fulfill one of his two life ambitions and see the world—and he could do so as a prince.

He kept his tone low. "I'm sorry, but I can't help you."

He left quietly and went to his childhood home to see his mother. Mma quickly made it clear that, unlike him, she missed the old man. When she tired of that, she harangued him about still being unmarried. At first light, he left for the airport.

 

He'd been back in Abuja two days when Angela called.

"Darling Angela," he said softly, thinking how he'd very much like to see her again, perhaps run his fingers through her hair. "What a pleasant surprise. What's new?"

"There's been a fire on one of our vessels. The August Visitor. You can get some of the details in tomorrow's papers." Her voice dropped an octave. "Kunam, we need you now more than ever."

He didn't wait for the papers. He abandoned the travel advisory site he'd been browsing, and navigated to a news website.

SHIP FIRE HIGHLIGHTS NIGERIA'S OIL REGION CRISIS

A fire on a service ship operating in Nigerian waters has once again drawn attention to the crises in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of the West African country.

The August Visitor, owned and operated by local firm Ernesto Magnus Limited, began burning at about 06:45 GMT. All personnel aboard the ship were evacuated safely. Fire-fighting vessels from various major oil companies helped extinguish the blaze within 20 minutes.

While no militant group has yet claimed responsibility for the fire, security experts in the region are warning against ruling out arson.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, but recently, militant attacks on oil facilities and the abduction of foreign workers have cut production by a quarter.

Meanwhile, maritime assessors have determined that the August Visitor will need extensive repairs to return to operational status.

At the time of filing this report, the cause of the fire remained unknown. If safety violations caused the fire, the authorities will penalize the owner of the vessel.

Kunam reached for the phone.

"Angela, what's this about an Ernesto Magnus Limited being the owner of the ship?"

"Oh, that. Haven't your father's lawyers briefed you?"

"They're supposed to next week."

"Well, it's a technical thing. We work under Ernesto Technical, but the company our fathers jointly incorporated, Ernesto Magnus Limited, is our fiduciary."

"What does that mean?"

"It's an industry practice to limit exposure," Angela explained patiently. "Sorry, I have to go now—I've got some people waiting here."

Kunam moved the mouse to click the back arrow and return to researching his world tour when a link to another Nigerian news item caught his eye with a voluptuous female naval officer posing for the accompanying photo.

NIGERIAN NAVY SAVES NATION $4 MILLION DAILY.

He read the story and learned that the Navy had given itself a pass mark for what it described as ‘great work in progress,' while singing the perennial lack-of-equipment song. Describing itself as the only armed service constitutionally mandated to monitor economic activities, the Navy said it had reduced the amount of crude oil stolen by pirates and bunkering rings from over 100,000 barrels per day to fewer than 20,000 barrels.

Surprised that anyone could manage the theft of even one cumbersome crude oil barrel, Kunam wondered who these criminals really were. He made a mental calculation and conservatively estimated that over a million dollars worth of crude oil still disappeared every day. Only in Nigeria, he scoffed.

His mother's maid phoned. She had only called once previously when his father died.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Mma wants to talk to you."

Kunam groaned inaudibly. "Okay, give her the phone."

 

He went to Port Harcourt the next day. Angela met him at the airport. Packed into an elegant black skirt suit with white trim, her curvaceous form evoked a page in Cosmo. Her hair hung loose. Her lips were glossed a startling red. He tried to think of something other than kissing her. He found himself imagining how much finer she would look with the fine clothes off.

"You're even lovelier than the picture of you I carry in my head," he said.

She glanced at him and parted her lips as if to say something, then simply smiled and turned away. They drove in silence to Ernesto Technical headquarters and went up to what had evidently become her office.

Kunam smiled. "Darling Angela, is it business that's making you ignore me?"

She smiled back at him, smoothened her hair behind one ear, and swallowed. "I'm sorry I had to go to your mother," she said, her voice low and conspiratorial.

Is she flirting with me? Kunam wondered as he watched her get busy behind the big desk. He saw down the top of her jacket. "That's okay, dear," he said. "You did what you had to do." His nose constricted in arousal. The same way you're doing it now. He didn't say it.

She placed a folder on the desk and gave him a playful girlish smile. "You say that as if I'm holding a gun to your head." She rooted about in a drawer.

Kunam grinned. Aren't you? He pulled out the new personalized checkbook that the bank had issued for his dollar account.

Angela opened a compact case, brought out a Cartier pen, and straightened up. Kunam imagined running his hands over her curves and his breathing quickened.

Angela's lips parted slightly. "Are you okay?"

Kunam dropped the checkbook on the desk. "I'm fine."

"Right." Angela picked up the folder. "Let's bring you up to speed. We have two service ships, the August Visitor, which is now undergoing repairs, and the Good Fellow, which is our flagship. It's big, very new, has a lot of advanced equipment—"

"Angela," he interrupted, his voice a tender whisper.

"Yeah?"

"There's no need to get into all that."

"As you wish." She closed the folder.

In four quick strides, he went around the desk and pulled her to him.

"Kunam," she exclaimed softly before she kissed him back.

They didn't bother to clear the desk.

Afterwards, Angela gathered her clothes and mouthed a kiss at Kunam as she strode off to the bathroom. He dressed quickly, grabbed his never-opened checkbook, and left. On the plane back to Abuja, he slept soundly.

 

Several white-clad monsters were chasing him with long knives. He'd been making love with a person he didn't recognize when they attacked. He'd had no time to get dressed. He ran naked through the heart of Abuja. People stared and pointed. Apparently, they couldn't see the monsters. They kept asking, "Why are you running naked?" He ignored them and ran on.

The monsters caught up with him and pinned him down. A knife slashed at the base of his penis and he woke up gasping. His plane had just touched down.

Inside the terminal building of the Abuja airport, he filled in a check for five million dollars and couriered it to Angela.

 

"Is seven million dollars too much?"

Kunam looked from one man to the other. The one who'd asked the question, stuffed into an ill-fitting blue dashiki, sat across from him. Kunam thought the man's fat-boy good looks annoying. The other man stood leaning against the office door like an imitation Fela who'd copied the late Afrobeat maestro's dress style in hideous shades of green. Navy investigators. To Kunam they looked like comedians.

"I don't have that kind of money."

Fat Boy exhaled. "Look, we know how much your father left you. It's over twenty million. In dollars." The man's eyes popped as he stressed the amount. "And we know how he made most of that money."

"My father had interests in transportation and oil services," Kunam said. At least he knew that much.

Fake Fela laughed. "So you wrote that nonsense on his funeral program."

Fake Fela laughed harder. Fat Boy joined in.

Kunam didn't get the joke.

"We know you weren't close to him," Fat Boy said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "So it's possible you don't know what everyone else knows."

Kunam couldn't resist. "Which is?"

"Your father not only led one of the biggest bunkering rings in the Niger Delta, everybody knew him as the chief of all chiefs. You know what they called him?"

Fat Boy and Fake Fela looked at each other and then at him. "Oga Chairman," they said and laughed.

"You're lying," Kunam said.

"You think he made twenty million dollars from a few old buses and repairing rigs?" Fake Fela asked. He checked himself, suddenly feigning seriousness. "You don't even know about his brothels?"

"Lie. My father would never do anything illegal. He spoke against it all the time."

The men laughed again.

"You're too funny," Fat Boy said in his loud manner. "Do you even know how your father died?"

"Helicopter accident."

"And you think it happened just like that?"

Kunam's heart raced. "There were seven others."

"Fifteen others," Fake Fela corrected. "Eight bodies in that Big Cat disappeared after it crashed. You're not a child; you should understand what that means."

"Your father mixed with some really bad people," Fat Boy said. "They will come after you because part of the money you've inherited is theirs."

"Please, leave my office," Kunam said.

Fake Fela shook his head and laughed.

Fat Boy stood up. "Look, people have died."

Kunam stood up and towered over Fat Boy. "Are you threatening me?"

"Threatening you?" Fat Boy shrugged, then brought out a business card and dropped it on the table. "No be we," he said in pidgin with a forced smile. "Those wey go threaten you, dem dey come."

Kunam picked up the card and tore it to bits. "I will report you to your superiors."

"That we did what? Look, this thing is bigger than you. Just do the wise thing. Give us what we want. We can take care of others and nobody will trouble you. But if you want to be stupid, we'll let your father's business associates deal with you first. If you're still alive when they finish with you, then you'll still have to answer to us because we are the law."

 

Kunam got on the next flight. Port Harcourt sat under a sunless sky. The offices of Ernesto Technical were particularly dull. Angela swiveled behind the big desk. She smiled cheerfully.

"Kunam, I got the—"

"What is this I'm hearing from the Navy?"

Her face clouded over. "What Navy?"

"Two clowns asking for money, saying my father ran a bunkering ring. Is it true?"

Angela interlocked her fingers. "I don't know anything about that."

"Come on, Angela."

"I should ask you. I can only speak for my father. So, is it true?"

Kunam glared at her. "You know I don't know. But I suspect you know. Are you going to tell me or not?"

Angela got up and walked round the desk. "All I know is that my father did business with yours. I don't know the details. Angelo doesn't either. They kept their business to themselves."

Kunam shook his head. "First you hid Ernesto Magnus from me, and now—"

"Kunam, your father's lawyers should have briefed you. I offered to tell you about our operations, but you didn't want to know. Remember?"

"Before then I asked if you're engaged in anything illegal—"

"And I said we're not. I don't know what your father got up to, but I assure you—"

"Stop lying, Angela!"

She gaped at him, eyes steely. "How dare you call me a liar?"

He didn't blink. "Because you're lying. Twenty million dollars is just—"

"Twenty million dollars?" She didn't attempt to hide her shock. She half-leaned, half-sat on the desk. "He left you that much? And you wouldn't give us five bloody million?"

Kunam exhaled and turned away.

Angela raked her hair backwards with her fingers. "Everybody knew your father lived to cheat. I guess nobody knew just how much."

Kunam had no clue what she meant. "What are you—?"

"So that's what this is about."

"Angela—"

"Angelo convinced me you're different. But I guess you're not."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"My father's name comes first in the holding company, but we're broke and you're the one with all the money!"

"How's that my fault?"

"You know," she came face to face with him, "when we were younger, I never could make you out. Did you want Angelo or me? It took quite a while before I figured out you wanted us both. You're very greedy, Kunam. Just like your father."

"I'm not my father. You haven't told me—"

"Your father and my father did business for over two decades. Every so often, he told my father he had to ‘settle' the authorities. Time to split profits, and my father always ended up short-changed. Now you've started the very same game."

"Didn't you say you don't know any details?"

Angela wagged a stern finger. "You say you're not your father. Well, I'm not my father, either. I won't let you screw me over."

Kunam put up his hands and shook his head. "You're getting it all wrong."

Angela laughed. "Look, you can't be on our side and be doing deals with the Navy."

"What deals?"

Angela scoffed. "Don't give me that I-don't-know-what's-going-on look. This is bigger than you. If you—"

Kunam raised a finger. "I ask you again: Is there anything illegal going on?"

Angela waved it aside. "Get off your nonexistent high horse, Kunam. You're sitting on fifteen million dollars. At least half of that money rightfully belongs to Angelo and me. But I'm not going to make a fuss about that. We're on the verge of even bigger things. If you think you can use your Navy friends to outsmart us, be prepared for jail or worse."

 

Kunam checked into a hotel. His phone woke him before sunrise.

"Angela, it's barely six. What is it?"

"You tell me! What have you done? The Navy just seized the Good Fellow."

"I'll see you at the office."

He showered and got dressed. On his way out, a tall, graying expatriate in a Mercedes stopped him.

The man leaned out of his car window and smiled. "You're a hard man to find, Kunam Magnus?"

Kunam didn't feel very sociable. "Who're you?"

The expat nodded. "It's like that, huh? A man after my heart. Call me Borgia."

"What do you want with me, Mr. Borgia? I have pressing matters to take care of."

"The Good Fellow, no?"

Kunam didn't say a word.

"Don't be surprised," Borgia said. "We're like family here. Word travels quickly, si?"

"I'm leaving now." Kunam tried to get around the car.

Borgia quickly got out, grabbed Kunam by the elbow, and pinned him against the car.

Kunam snapped out of Borgia's hold and pushed the expat back. "Have you gone mad?" Kunam balled his fists.

Borgia held up his hands in a calming gesture. "There is no need for the fighting, my friend. I represent myself and some of your father's business colleagues. He has twelve-point-five million dollars of our money with him when he dies. Now you have it, yes? And we need it back quickly. So please write me the check now and everything is okay, okay?

Kunam scowled. "Get out of my sight."

Borgia threw up his hands in exasperation. "This is the wrong business for you, my friend. Bad accidents happen. Look at your father. Look at the August Visitor. And now even the Good Fellow isn't looking so good, no? Tell you what," Borgia moved closer and stuck a business card into Kunam's front pocket. "Get your checkbook and write that check. When you've written it, call me."

Kunam tried to push Borgia back again. The expat parried him with a left swipe then quickly punched him twice in the stomach before stepping back.

"Kunam Magnus, you don't want me to hit you again. Go and write that check. I must have it before the banks close today. Okay? If I have to come find you, you will beg for death. This I promise you."

Borgia got back into his car and drove off. Before Kunam could move, Fat Boy and Fake Fela pulled up in a battered, unmarked pickup. They got out, grabbed Kunam by the shoulders and pushed him into the front passenger seat. It felt surprisingly comfortable. Fake Fela got into the driver's seat and Fat Boy sat behind Kunam.

Fake Fela pulled Borgia's card out of Kunam's pocket, studied it and then carefully tucked it back along with his own card.

"So you've met Tony Borgia," Fake Fela said.

"More like Tony Borgia has met him," Fat Boy said. "Tony Borgia na dangerous man o. They call him Italian Mafia. Don't play with him."

Kunam threw up his hands. "What do you want now?"

Fake Fela turned to his colleague. "Make I ask?"

"Okay, ask," Fat Boy said.

"If your neighbor's son came to you and said, 'Mr. Man, you are not a wise man, you are a very stupid man,' what would you think? A, that the boy has gone crazy? Or B, that his father sent him to insult you?"

Kunam frowned at them. "What's this?"

"B," Fat Boy said. "Definitely B. If the boy has gone crazy, he'll be just as happy to insult his father as he would be to insult me, so he won't need to insult me."

"This is ridiculous," Kunam said.

"That it is ridiculous does not mean B is not the correct answer," Fat Boy said.

"Before you called our boss and reported us," Fake Fela said, "did it not occur to you that he may have sent us in the first place?"

Fat Boy tapped Kunam on the shoulder. "The money has increased. Ten million dollars or you go see pepper."

Fake Fela gestured for Kunam to leave the pickup.

Kunam leapt out, covered in sweat. "I'm not giving you any money," he said. "I've not done anything wrong."

"Only a newborn baby can say that, and we know newborn babies don't talk, they cry," Fake Fela said.

"You've not done anything wrong?" Fat Boy asked as he got into the front passenger seat. "What about that big ship you own that's about to bring you more problems?"

Kunam didn't speak. But Fat Boy saw something in Kunam's face. He turned to Fake Fela with a wide grin. "He didn't even know that, did he?"

"So what if it's mine?" Kunam fumbled. "It's just a service ship."

The investigators laughed.

"Just a service ship," Fat Boy mimicked. "Ol' boy," he lapsed into pidgin, "you suppose just remain for Abuja dey sell computer. Service ship, huh? How did over five hundred barrels of crude oil get inside it if it's just a service ship?"

Kunam's nose flared. "You're trying to set me up."

Fat Boy jeered. "If anybody set you up, na ya father set you up."

Fake Fela laughed. "Apart from stealing crude oil, you burned the August Visitor so you could claim the insurance money. We can nail you for several counts of economic crimes and at least one count of treason. Government will confiscate the money, you'll be looking at several twenty-one years to life jail terms, and we'll get double promotions."

Fat Boy scowled at Kunam. "You have two hours. We're watching you."

 

Angelo sat buried in the chair behind the big desk.

Kunam scowled. "Where's Angela?"

"Gone to see the naval commander. Kunam, I need some money right now."

"What for?"

"I've got to pay off the club debts," Angelo said.

"What club debts?"

"You mean you don't know?"

Kunam had had enough of that. "What club debts?" he snapped.

Angelo took a deep breath. "Our fathers owed gambling debts at the Excellency Club. I'm a member, so they're leaning on me to settle those debts. And, okay," Angelo looked uncomfortable, "I owe a little bit, too."

Kunam stared at Angelo. "You're saying my father gambled? What will I hear next? That he owes pimps and prostitutes?"

"Eh," Angelo hesitated. "Actually, he owned the girls, so he couldn't owe them."

Kunam shook his head. "So he did own a brothel?"

"You mean you didn't—?" Angelo cut himself short. "You should look into that. The two places bring in quite a tidy sum daily."

Kunam's mobile rang. The screen showed "Angela." He took the call.

"You've done your worst, haven't you?" she shouted.

"What are you talking about?"

"You shopped us to the Navy. You agreed to turn state evidence. How could you?"

"That's nonsense. And you lied about the Good Fellow."

"Get over yourself, Kunam. Who commissioned the ship? Who paid for it? Your father. He even came up with the name Good Fellow as a little inside joke."

"You're not—"

"If you want to go ahead and give evidence against us, just remember, your mother is still alive." The line went dead.

"What did Angela say?" Angelo asked.

Kunam went to the window while he considered what to relay. Looking down, he saw Borgia's Mercedes parked outside the Ernesto Technical premises. He could see at least two other beefy men in the car. Kunam's stomach started to dissolve. He dug out Fake Fela's card. For the first time, he saw the investigator's name.

"Don't worry, we will take care of Borgia," Sub-Lieutenant Michael Udo said on the phone. "It's good you're doing the wise thing."

Kunam ignored the drivel. The wise thing would have been to avoid the poisoned money his father had left him.

Angelo came up behind Kunam. "Better to spend the money and stay around to make more money. If you don't, you'll be either dead or in jail. And then you'll still be dead."

As they watched, Sub-Lieutenant Michael Udo and Fat Boy led several armed men to surround Borgia's car. Once Borgia and his men were cuffed, the investigators entered the building. Minutes later, they were in the office.

"Make the check out to Angelo," the Sub-Lieutenant said.

"Why?" Kunam asked.

"Because he handles distribution."

Kunam looked at Angelo. Angelo turned away. Kunam exhaled. He sat down and wrote the check. The Sub-Lieutenant collected the check and handed it to Angelo.

Just then, Borgia sauntered in with Angela.

"Everything is okay," Fat Boy said to them. "Angelo will do the honors as usual."

Kunam almost stopped breathing. He gaped at everyone.

Sub-Lieutenant Fake Fela turned to him. "This is business and it's bigger than any one person. We'll release the Good Fellow in a few days."

Kunam shook his head. This couldn't be happening.

The Sub-Lieutenant gave him a pat on the shoulder. "You'll be a wise Chairman, just like your father before old age made him stupid."

Kunam kept shaking his head. Of the two things he had wanted most in life, he'd so far achieved none. He'd not yet seen the world. And though his father lay six feet beneath the earth, he'd now gotten closer to the old bastard than ever.

As he reeled about the office, his gaze fell on the picture of the late Ernesto with another man on the wall. Now he recognized the other man. He hadn't seen that face in over ten years. But how could he forget his father's face? Shriveled and stooped like an old farmer, his father smiled benignly at him from under a large straw hat.

 

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