OCT 3, 2022
Just after three, they arrived at Nsia's. Banou's treacherous mind encouraged her to keep the loot for herself. As she left the car, she wished she had held on to the bag, but it had taken Mapacha's intervention to calm her down.
"Banou, we stick to the plan. Everything will happen tomorrow when we meet here," Mapacha wearily said.
"OK, but if you rip me off, I will curse your eyes," she retorted doubtfully.
Mapacha, finally tired of being round people decided to walk home. His mind was racing as he struggled desperately to put things into perspective. While he had enjoyed that beat down, he had just participated in a violent robbery. Initially, it had not bothered him, but now on the other side of the story, he felt doubtful. As he walked down the pathway towards his dark shack, he heard Neve bark in pleasant surprise. She energetically bounded towards him as her tail wagged in glee. Astonished, he imagined that she run away and come back here, but he found the cooking oil tin where he usually put it and saw it filled with water. As Neve energetically tried to lick him, he scruffed her ears and knew she was alright.
He entered his shack and saw Abril asleep in his bed.
"Abril," he called her, as he lit the overhead bulb.
She squirmed uncomfortably and quickly shielded her face from the light of the bulb.
"Mapacha," she cooed provocatively.
He set his bag down and undressed. From where she lay, she reached out to touch his skin.
"Mapacha,'' she seductively murmured, shedding the bed sheet to reveal her voluptuous nude body.
Mapacha sighed."No Abril. I'm tired. Go back to sleep."
As he lay next to her, his musky body touched hers and she flinched slightly.
"You smell wonderful. I have missed you."
He reeked of sweat and did not get to hear those words as he had already drifted off to sleep.
Abril's craving for Mapacha finally got to her and she gently woke him up with slow caresses. Still, in a daze, she eagerly pounced on him with a mischievous smile on her pouting lips. Her thick sweaty thighs locked onto his lower torso as she eyed him excitedly. Mapacha was soundly defeated, and he gave in to her. She let her passionate hunger finally overwhelm her senses. When she was finally sated, she wrapped her clammy nude body in a khanga and went out to the main room of the shack to make them tea. Mapacha left the shack with his crumpled newspaper and went to the toilet and afterwards, he took his cold shower underneath the perforated bucket. Neve watched him excitedly, with her tail thumping the side of the shack. She too had missed him. With his tattered towel, he dried himself and wore a green t-shirt with a clean pair of city sweepers and sandals. Finally, his metal comb raked his shaggy hair into a thick shiny afro, and he was ready to go. Abril poured him a cup of tea while he sat on a stool. She sat on the jerrican with her own cup, still wrapped in the khanga. They wordlessly drank the tea as the warm breeze flowed through the open door. He stood up, picked the leftovers that Abril had picked from Nsia's and poured them into Neve's bowl. He also added water into the cooking oil tin and started pushing his bicycle up the pathway.
"Mapacha, wait," Abril called to him.
"What Abril? I have to go to work."
He could not understand her grave tone.
"Do I mean anything to you? Why are you being so cruel to me? I waited for you here. I am here."He instantly recognised the talk. She desperately wanted his attention to discuss their non-starter relationship, but she had picked the wrong time.
He cocked his head and slyly slipped her a weary side-eye.
"What do you want Abril?"
She sulked at him. There were times she loathed his single-dimension mindset.
"I will see you later. Meet me at Nsia's after work. Is that OK?"
She considered quickly and secretly knew she would agree. Without waiting for an answer, he pushed his bicycle up the pathway onto the dusty road and as he had done many times before rode down towards the town square.
It had been years since he had left the military, but Mzee Tembo habitually rose early. Una warily eyed him, as she tried to properly understand his sudden trip to St. Michel. He had claimed business but his dusty clothes and muddy car told a different story, and besides, St Michel was not big on bicycles. Her intuition noted his subtle changes. A commanding air had encroached on him. He was also very guarded and did not hum one of his favourite African tunes. Dutifully, she fed him thick millet porridge with fried arrowroots for breakfast, and he eagerly devoured it. She was pleased, but the questions continued to riddle her mind. Had he taken a younger woman with him, or did he keep a mistress there? Would she have to follow him, now that she was suspicious? She had carefully inspected the inside of his car while he showered and found nothing. Mzee Tembo, knowing her suspicious nature had hidden the Englishman's travel bag in his tools cabinet in the garage when he had arrived home. Una had smelt the faint perfume in the car, so she was convinced that there was another woman involved. Silently, she berated herself for being a terrible wife that had pushed her husband into the arms of another woman and vowed to do better to win him back. What if she was younger and more beautiful? She could not keep up with that. She felt dated when she considered the attractive younger women she saw as she walked around their neighbourhood. Una asked God why this misfortune had befallen her after decades of blissful marriage. Unsure of what to do next, she reflexively updated him on the neighbourhood gossip, while he mindlessly weighed in. His mind was still on the beach in St Michel, as he recalled Mapacha's savagery and how Banou had almost wet herself in fear.
He stood up from the table to head out to work, bid Una goodbye and laid twenty pounds on the dining table."Una, get yourself something nice and do some shopping. OK?"She looked at the money and realised it was a lot more than he typically gave her. Something was definitely off, but with the money in her hand, she was not about to turn her head away from this small fortune. She would have to deal with those issues later.
Mzee Tembo packed the travel bag in the boot of the car and headed towards Nsia's bar. He parked a bit of a distance off and waited for Mapacha. He was a few minutes early so he sat inside and listened to the news. Mapacha's bicycle approached the car, and he stopped next to it.
"Let me drop the bicycle and come back to help with the bag."
He rode down, leaned the bicycle at the foot of the staircase that led up to the terrace and quickly walked back up to the car. Mzee Tembo clambered out, locked his door and opened the boot. Mapacha then picked up the heavy bag and slowly, they walked down towards the bar.
Banou had woken up early and spent the better part of the morning with one eye on the dusty Seiko clock and the other out the window. When she saw the Peugeot parked in the distance, she was instantly relieved. By the time they had arrived with the bag, she was eagerly waiting for them next to Mapacha's bicycle. They greeted her and together, they climbed up to the terrace.
"Open the bag," Banou said giddily.
They were slightly disgusted by her obvious greed. Mapacha unzipped it and carefully poured out the contents. Banou's shrewd eyes quickly verified the loot and accepted it was all there. Mzee Tembo had not dared open the bag and did not know what the contents were. He was astonished to see the foreign money fall out. Mapacha picked up the two brown envelopes and carefully opened them and this revealed a lot of local pounds. Mzee Tembo picked up the watches and whistled appraisingly. One was a Rolex Daytona and the other an Omega Constellation.
"Beautiful," he murmured.
Banou picked up the small velvet pouch that toted what felt like little pebbles. She pulled the drawstrings apart and poured out four tiny shiny rocks. Diamonds? Mzee Tembo whistled again. She gasped in awe as she realised what they had stumbled upon.
Mapacha thrust the money into her hands."Count it."
Mzee Tembo focused on the files. He sat back and carefully perused them. Mapacha went through the bag to see what else was left and found the four film canisters. He shook each one of them. The first one seemed to have some sort of powder. Banou stopped counting the money, licked her pinky finger and carefully touched the powder. She then slowly tasted it with the tip of her tongue. It numbed her almost instantly, and the tart taste exploded on her buds.
"Cocaine. Tourists seem to like it a lot," she explained.
She gave it some thought."I will take that."
She quickly pocketed the canister.
Mapacha shook the remaining three and heard the film rattling within. Mzee Tembo pocketed those.
"I will get them developed and see what pictures he took."
Banou resumed counting the money. She was surprised by the amount and had to verify it.
"Mzee Tembo, pen please," she said.
Her wide-eyed smile kept growing as she added the numbers and wrote the amounts on the envelopes. When she was done, she announced the tally.
"The bundles in the envelope amount to eighteen thousand pounds flat. There is also six thousand three hundred British pounds, three thousand five hundred and fifty dollars, and one thousand francs and some change."
They were all floored by the staggering amount. Banou, her business mind kicking in started calculating the split and realised her cut was enough to pay for a deposit for a piece of land to build a house on and still have enough to start a business. When she added the money, she could make from selling the cocaine to a dealer she knew, she felt satisfied with the series of events. She started splitting the money before Mzee Tembo stopped her.
"Wait, Banou. You need to hear this. Mapacha, sit down."
They paid attention.
"The Englishman was a super criminal. These files here indicate he was tracking shipments of diamonds for a government Minister in Côte d'Ivoire and it seems the Englishman was planning on taking them for himself."
Banou and Mapacha sat confused. What did this have to do with them? They had accomplished their goal and gotten a sweet payday out of it. Mzee Tembo put the files down and finally focused on the loot laid out on the table. A smile forced its way to his lips. He had already calculated their next steps.
"This is what I think we should do. We have the plan and his money, I think we should go get the diamonds. Everything is in the files. All we have to do is follow the instructions."
Banou dismissed Mzee Tembo.
"Eh, old man, are you mad? We did the job. The Englishman was soundly thrashed and we got a payday. This ends here."
Mapacha too was surprised, but he chose to remain silent trying to figure out Mzee Tembo's angle. He knew it was not about the money but did not understand why.
"Hear me out. We have everything we need. We have the full plan in the files and the location. There is the building plan too, so I think we can do this if we are prepared."
Mzee Tembo was desperate. Like an addict, he needed to rekindle the rush he had felt over the last couple of days.
"Are you serious?" Banou asked incredulously.
She did not need an answer. She knew he was.
"Mapacha, what do you think?" Mzee Tembo asked him.
The paradigm shift for Mapacha started the moment he entered the hotel room and discovered luxury. There was a better life he did not imagine existed. He knew he could deliver on his part, but the idea of going abroad to do this seemed outrageous. However, they had come this far, and nobody had even batted an eye their way. He considered that all he had was a shack and a dog. There wasn't much for him to lose.
"Boss, I don't know, but if you say it's OK then we go. I am with you."
"What about you Banou?" Mzee Tembo asked her.
"You two are crazy. We will get killed. Or go to jail." she responded.
"So you are out then?"
She was confounded. This was supposed to be a one-time thing. Her moral compass, however, was hovering over 'South'. All the money, the diamonds, she knew she would give in. Besides, the scariest thing she had ever seen up until that point was Mapacha and he was on her side so why not.
"OK. Fine. But we will need a good plan. I can't afford to regret anything else in my life. It has been tough just getting here."
So it was agreed. Mzee Tembo took charge and split the money into two parts. He worked out that they would need about half to execute the plan while the second would be theirs to use as they chose.
"Banou, take the sunglasses, watches, the cocaine and all that other stuff and give it to Umaru the taxi guy, and tell him to sell it all quietly. If he crosses you, ask Mapacha to sort him out."
All over a sudden, Mzee Tembo was knowledgeable on underground matters. The veneer of his old age was suddenly shed.
Mapacha was amused. Now he was a gangster? Mzee Tembo picked up the file and took his cut of the money. Mapacha, stuffed his in his pants pockets, while Banou stuffed hers in her bra. The capital, Mzee Tembo put in the envelope and hide it in the files. He also picked the pouch with the diamonds. He would give them to his jeweller friend to verify if they were real and what their value was. They talked for a bit while the sun crossed the median and began its ritual torture on the island. Downstairs, as Nsia unpacked her new delivery, the radio aired the distressing news.
"And today in St Michel, a tourist was viciously attacked and left for dead on the beach outside the Lotus Grand Hotel. He was admitted to St Michel Regional hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. The British High Commission has protested the violent and senseless act on one of their citizens and has requested their citizens to be cautious in St Michel. In other news, Biafran soldiers today. . . "
Mapacha, Banou and Mzee Tembo will return in 'Mapacha en Côte d'Ivoire'.