The house was located deep in Victoria Island.
It was in one of the exclusive residential neighborhoods with large private houses. It was a lovely one story mansion with a large compound around it, all fenced off with secure high walls.
Nothing set the house apart from all the other houses in the area except that there was an unusual number of CCTVs in place all around it, and a well-educated, well-dressed man always answered the gates.
The house was INTERPOL’s secret Operational headquarters for the whole of West Africa and not even the Nigerian Security agencies knew it.
It was Sunday morning, about nine o’clock, and both Major Didier Enrique and Lieutenant Simon Vane were in their office, looking over the photos they had taken all day the previous day. They had the pictures pinned up all over a big board on one wall in the well-lit, fair-sized room with two desks which had computers and files on them.
“So what do you think?” asked Major Enrique.
Both men, in simple shirtsleeves and trousers, stood side by side, facing the board. Both were tall, well-built and well trained as INTERPOL operatives came. Lieutenant Vane was 28, an American while Major Enrique, an Ivorian, was in his mid-thirties.The two men were leaders of a top team put together to tackle the growing problem of drug shipments from West Africa to the US and Europe.
They had been working for a year now and so far, discovered eight different major crime rings in Nigeria alone. They had shut down four of them within a few months and crippled another but the rest had adjusted quickly, too quickly, and now it was so hard to even figure out how they operated. Six months ago, the Black Axe Crime family hadn’t been on their list at all but now it had climbed to fourth position.
Lieutenant Vane. stared hard at pictures some more but didn’t like he was seeing at all.
“Gorgio Caldarelli and Papai, coming all the way from New York, Black Bob leap-frogging it down from London despite the South African warrant on his head, the Mabakas crime family send top-level representative from South Africa, Mudafu from Rwanda, Rollings himself comes in from Ghana and half the big shots criminals in this country who usually never go anywhere outside their territories show up, all of them to attend one single birthday party!” Lieutenant Vane shook his head. “I think Augustina Benson is much bigger than we thought.”
Major Enrique stepped over to the board and tapped a photo with his finger. It was the photo of a black Toyota Highlander driving down the street. The dark-windowed jeep had come and gone from the party very early yesterday and its number plates hadn’t set off any alarms on the INTERPOL database.
“Ever seen this vehicle before?” he asked.
Vane shook his head.
That’s the private car of the wife of Chief Johnson, senior aide to Governor Wilson of Rivers state.
The Rivers state governorship elections comes up in three weeks.”
Vane looked surprised. “Mr. Wilson is not re-running.”
“No, but he’s stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from the state and has a handpicked candidate to succeed him in other to ensure his tracks are covered after he leaves office. So far, the opposition has presented a formidable front and appear to be in a position to win the elections.”
Luitenant Vane stared at his partner. “Are you saying we are looking at a high-profile political assassination in the making?”
“Shit,” cursed Vane. “Do we bring in the Secret Service?”
Helen took a perfect dive into the Olympic-sized swimming pool and swam underwater for a stretch. The water was cool and she stayed in a while. When finally, she came climbing out, her personal bodyguards, a big powerfully built man in a suit, stepped up with a big white towel.
“Thank you, Paul,” she said softly.
The big man nodded and stepped back respectfully.
Helen toweled her body dry as she went over to sit down in a reclining chair by the pool. She poured herself a tall glass of wine from the bottle on the table next to the chair and sat back, stretching out her sleek bikini body and relaxing to enjoy the glorious cool evening breeze blowing straight off the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
Helen got up immediately, putting the wine glass aside and picking up her red dressing robe from over the other chair by the table. She put it on over her body, belting it closed as she slipped her feet into red slippers.
“Where is she?” asked Helen.
“She’s in the living room upstairs,” replied Marcel.
Helen walked off quickly across the compound, heading for the back door of the big mansion. Bodyguards in dark suits were positioned around the compound but few were allowed in the house, particularly upstairs.
Madam T’s solemn expression did change as she watched her lovely daughter come towards her, so elegant and beautiful yet smart and completely fearless Yes, she thought, the girl had been worth all the trouble and now the time had come.
“You wished to see me, mama,” said Helen as she came up.
“Yes, my dear” replied Madam T and gestured at the ample space next to her on the long sofa with a well-maintained hand spotting a large flashing diamond ring and long red fingernails. “Come and sit with me,”
Madam T studied her adopted daughter and the expression on her lovely face became even more serious.
“How old are you now?” asked Madam T.
“Twenty-six,” replied Helen without hesitation, beginning to worry.
Madam T nodded. “That makes it eleven years since the day I found you on the streets and took you into my home, then adopted you as a daughter. I have since invested a lot in giving you very special training and yet I have not assigned you any specific position in the family business.” Madam T’s gaze bored into Helen’s. “That is about to change. You will become one of two things soon, either my PA, a position of insignificance or my second-in-command. I particularly want you as a second-in-command, business is growing fast and I need some help as it is, someone I can trust completely, someone who can command and be feared. It has been clear to me for a long time that neither Charles nor Louis have what it takes to fill that position, they prefer the corporate aspect of the family business while Aaron is more of a thug. None of the men are right for this position but I have a daughter. I have been grooming you very carefully all these years to stand beside me and the time has now come for you to prove yourself.”
Madam T pointed at a large square envelope lying on the exquisitely carved low table in the middle of the room.
“In that envelope, you will find details of the first of three tasks you must complete in the next few days. You will do them all and do them well. Make use of Hector.”
Helen glanced over at the envelope once then looked back at her mother.
Madam T stared hard at her adopted daughter.
“Do not fail me, Helen,” she said in a strong voice.
Helen shook her head firmly, her heart filled with emotion. “I will never fail you, mama,”
Madam T nodded with satisfaction and rose gracefully to her feet. She walked away across the room, without another look at Helen, heading for the wide archway leading off to another section of the house.
Basil followed at once.
As they exited the room, Helen stood up and stepped over to the low table in the middle of the living room. She picked up the envelope. It was not sealed or marked: she opened it.
Inside the envelope were several glossy pictures. They were surveillance photos of a middle-aged man. They showed his pattern of movement, his family, house, cars, and place of work.
Helen’s blood went cold as she recognized the men.
He was older now and had a beard but it was him. She could never forget him. It was her uncle, her father’s only brother, and only surviving relative. She had lived with him and his family for a year when she was fifteen, right after her mother died. His wife had made every of her life hell but she had tolerated it. She had tolerated everything thrown at her until her uncle started assaulting her sexually and threatening her life. His wife had soon suspected what was going on and in a swift turn of events, her own uncle had accused her of seducing him. His wife nearly killed her that day, Helen still had a knife scar on her shoulder to prove it. To save her life that day, she had run out of the house and into the world where she knew no one. She had lived on the streets for two days, without food, shelter or even a change of clothes until one night, running away from a group of men that wanted to rape in the uncompleted building where she slept at nights, she got hit by a jeep on the empty road.
The owner of the jeep was a woman who took her and cared for her. The woman gave her a new name and a new life. That woman was now her mother.
Helen remembered it all like it was only yesterday, though it had all happened over ten years ago. She owed Madam Augustina Benson everything and her ambition to be like her hadn’t changed.
Helen stared at the picture in her right hand. It showed a bungalow on a quiet street. There was a red star marked on the house and that meant everyone in the house had to die.
This was the test. A test of her ruthlessness and ability to do what was needed at all time despite any emotional connection.
She had to kill her uncle and his entire family, a wife and four young children.