Money money money…
Leona Holman was a glamorous rich society lady I had become friends with soon after joining Bex’s circles. A smart Igbo lady who had the good sense to marry a rich old British businessman and whelp him two sons in the five years before he kicked the bucket, Leona was now a very wealthy beautiful widow of forty-one with a net worth in the billions of naira.
Leona still had affairs, of course, but only with very successful handsome younger men. Unfortunately for me, I was a prime specimen of that class so she had been after me like a queen vampire for the nearly two years since she first laid eyes on me. The fact that I got married barely slowed her down.
One reason I had never given in to Leona was that she was not really my type. A tall light-skinned beauty with a trim shapely body, she had none of the overflowing fullness of figure I preferred. But even if she did, there was simply no way I would have allowed myself fall into the clutches of a natural man-eater.
But things had changed now.
I got to Leona’s palatial mansion in Victoria Garden City on the Lekki peninsula at about ten o’clock that Sunday morning and was ushered straight into a lavishly furnished large living room by the uninformed, butler.
“Madam will be with you in a moment, sir,” said the well-fed middle-aged, butler with the clear hint of a British accent. “May I offer you something to drink?”
I glanced at the well-stocked shelves of the big bar across the room and shook my head. “No, I’ll help myself to something. Thank you.”
“As you wish, sir,” he bowed and left.
I went over to the bar and in behind the high marble counter. I selected the most expensive red wine I could find and got a glass. As I was working the bottle open carefully, Leona walked in looking like a million dollars in a glamorous figure fitting long black dress that reached right to the floor and glittering platinum jewelry that must have cost a small fortune. Her face was well made-up and her beautiful long blonde hair was definitely artificial of the highest quality.
“Hello, lover boy,” she said happily.
“Stop calling me that for Christ sake!” I snapped.
She waved away my displeasure with a careless gesture of a heavily jeweled hand, cat walking perfectly across the room towards me. She came right up to lean against the high marble counter of the bar and her eyes ate me up greedily.
“You have excellent tastes in wine,” I complimented her holding up the opened bottle to the light. The price tag of the damn wine couldn’t have been anywhere less than five hundred US dollars from the look of it.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“Care for some?”
I got an extra glass, poured out the wine and handed it to her. We clinked glasses and drank.
I nodded with approval as I lowered my glass. “This wine is really good. I think I’ll take the bottle with me.”
She laughed. “You men and expensive wine. There’s another bottle of it somewhere in the store, Barry will get that one for you too.”
I grinned at her, drained my glass in two gulps and poured a refill.
“You are looking a bit lean,” she observed. “Have you been ill?”
“Not at all, it’s just work,” I lied easily. “I’ve been too busy lately, not enough time to rest.”
She looked worried. “Most complicated health conditions begin that way, you know. You should take time off to get a lot of rest.”
I smiled at her. “You sound just like my doctor, but don’t worry, I’m already thinking in that line. I just need to lay the necessary foundations to become richer than you, it’s never a good thing for a babe to be richer than a guy,” I waved my hand expressively. “Causes all sorts of social unrest.”
She laughed. “That cocky tongue of yours is very much unaffected.”
Grinning, I went around the counter to take her hand, lifted it to my lips and kissed the back of it tenderly.
“You are looking amazingly lovely, Leona,” I said, staring into her eyes.
“Such a gallant gentleman,” she smiled delightedly. “Come, let’s sit down”
She took my hand and led me over to one of the long white leather sofas. We sat down close together and she shifted her position so she could look directly at me.
“How’s your wife?” she asked right off, crossing her legs elegantly. The long dress fell open from her feet right up to her knees, revealing her lovely legs, feet in high heel shoes.
“Overseas visiting with friends,” I lied smoothly.
“Oh, how convenient.”
I glanced at her. “For who?”
“For us, of course.”
I chuckled. “You never give up, do you?”
“No, I don’t, which is why I’m very curious about this issue you wish to discuss with me.”
I sat up. “I need you to lend me some money.”
Her smile faded and her fine penciled eyebrows rose in a look of surprise. “And here I was thinking you had finally come to your senses and decided to pay me the kind of visit I wanted.”
I took a drink from my glass and said nothing.
“How much?” she asked.
“Just fifty million?”
“Yeah, Just fifty million.”
She stared hard at me. “Are you broke or something?”
“No,” I replied at once, “Just a financial inconvenience. All my money is tied down in drastic business expansions right now, but something else of importance has come up requiring seventy million of my attention. All the liquid cash I got is twenty.”
She had the look of a shrewd businesswoman now. “Why don’t you go and ask your friend for the money? Surely, he can afford such an insignificant loan?”
“Bex is off burying his father at the moment. It would be terrible of me to even think of asking him for money at such a time and you know it.”
“So, you’re here now because you can’t get the money quickly enough elsewhere or you can’t get it at all,” she said and smiled like a cat that had just seen a big fat rat.
My heart sank.
“Look, Leona, I just need your help this once, okay,” I said. “Don’t turn it into something else.”
“Oh, I would never do that, dear,” she said nicely. “After all, it’s your problem as you so clearly pointed out. I was just wondering what was in it for me if I helped.”
I sighed. “I could give you a ten percent interest if you really need the money.”
“Don’t insult me, Larry. You know damned well what I want.”
“I’m a married man, Leona.”
“So, what?” she shot back. “Your wife is even out of the country at the moment.”
“Some people take some commitments rather seriously, you know,” I said.
“Don’t make me laugh. I know of at least a dozen occasions in the last few months where you’ve broken your ‘serious commitments’ horribly.”
I was surprised. “Where did you get such information?”
“I have my ways.”
“I’m sure you do, but your ways are very wrong.”
“I don’t think so. A big backside is not only what Amelia has you know. Under the right conditions, she’s got a big mouth too and I so happen to know what those conditions are.”
I sighed. “That was a mistake I made months ago. I’m a changed man now.”
“You made that very mistake nine different times and you spent hours making it each time. And there’s that bitch, Cassandra. Another mistake I suppose. People don’t change, lover boy,” she said mockingly. “You want my money or not?”
I put my glass aside on the low table and got to my feet. “Thanks for the excellent wine. I’ll be on my way now.”
Leona was on her feet at once. “And where do you think you’re going?”
I feigned surprise. “Elsewhere, of course.”
An angry expression crossed her face. “I really don’t understand you, Larry. Am I not more beautiful than all these fat women you run after?”
I turned to face her.
“Fat women, as you call them, are my thing, Leona. I also have an eye for beauty and you, my dear, are quite a beauty. But I’m using my brain here,” I tapped my head emphatically with a finger. “I will never give in to you because you are a very controlling and possessive woman and I’m exactly that way. We use people, Leona, you and I, we don’t bend to them. Two control freaks together is just big trouble waiting to happen, and you’re much too powerful an individual for me to have as an enemy, so I’m denying you battle from the outset.”
We stared at each other, and then she suddenly smiled wickedly, switching swiftly to full seduction mode.
She stepped very close to me, slid an arm around my neck and put the other hand on my chest, feeling the solid ridges of well-developed muscles through the fabric of my short-sleeved shirt.
“When do you want the money?” she asked softly, watching her busy hand on my chest.
“Tomorrow would be fine.”
“And when will you return it?”
“In a week or two.”
Her hand went to my biceps, squeezing gently, then moved up to join the other one, both hands moved slowly over my muscular shoulders. She seemed more interested in my physique than the money I wanted.
“Two weeks,” she said and looked directly into my eyes. “If I don’t get my money in exactly two weeks, you belong to me completely for a full one month, no strings attached. Agreed?”
“Now,” her arms locked around my neck and her body pressed fully against mine as her beautiful face came closer. “To seal the bargain, you will kiss me good or you can walk right out of here empty-handed.”
I chuckled and put my arms around her waist.
It was like kissing a hungry shark.
By Monday evening, I had the money in a large bag in my bedroom and a special GPS tracking device which I taught Ajuna to use. Everything was fixed, but I delayed making the call to the blackmailers till the next morning.
Mr. Blue answered right off when I finally placed the call.
“Have you got the money?” he asked right off.
“Thirty million in a bag, it’s right here with me,” I replied.
“Be parked across the street from Zenith bank along Adeniran Ogunsanya Avenue in Surulere in one hour. Come alone and wait in your car for further directives. We will be watching your every move without your knowledge. If you have involved the police in any way or try double-crossing us in any way, it will not end well for you, do you understand?”
“I understand perfectly,” I said.
The line went dead.
By nine o’clock that Tuesday morning, I was sitting in the Murano parked across the road from the bank. I waited twenty minutes before Mr. Blue called.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Head for Ikeja and keep your phone handy, you will receive directives as you go.”
The line went dead in my ear.
As I started the jeep and pulled into traffic, I checked the rear review mirrors carefully, but didn’t notice any followers.
The directives I got took me to a deserted side street in one of the developing upper-class suburbs of Ikeja. The black Toyota Corolla was parked halfway down the street as Mr. Blue said it would be. The place was just a lonely dirt road, there was no one or any other vehicle around and the high fences of private mansions, some still uncompleted, ran all along both sides of the road. As I pulled up behind the Corolla, a sports motorcycle with a lone masked rider I had recently noticed following me from afar, pulled up directly behind me.
The front doors of the Toyota car jerked open and two men in black shirts and trousers jumped out. They were youths in their mid-twenties to thirty, well-built and arrogant looking. The guy out of the driver’s side pulled out a pistol and took up a watchful position on the street while the other, coming quickly over to the Murano, held up two compact disk cases and motioned with them for me to get out of the jeep.
I got out to meet him.
“These are the original recordings,” he said and I instantly knew he was Mr. Blue. He handed me the disk cases. “No other copies exist anywhere except the one sent to you, where’s the money?”
“It’s in the boot,” I said and headed for the boot.
The rider was off his bike now, unmasked and looking watchful, holding a pistol pressed close by his side.
The power tailgate of the Murano rose to reveal the large black bag in the boot. Mr. Blue unzipped it and checked the neat piles of money quickly, then re-zipped it. In one quick movement, he suddenly grabbed my hand and snatched the keys out of it, moved back and the tailgate started to close.
“What’s going on?” I asked in surprise.
“We’re taking your jeep,” he said curtly already heading for the driver’s door.
The rider was watching me dangerously so I quickly backed away from the Murano. He jumped back on his motorcycle and the vehicles started up. They shot off down the road with the Toyota in the lead, but barely made it to the end of the street when things began to happen.
A police Pickup jeep full of armed policemen suddenly swerved into the street ahead of them and raced forward for a head-on collision. The vehicles came to halt in a cloud of dust and the motorcycle attempted to make a fast U-turn as armed policemen tumbled out of the Pickup jeep and surged forward. Gunshots rang out and the rider was knocked off his motorcycle into the dust. In a moment, the policemen were all over the two cars and the motorcycle.
An unmarked police car sped up from the other end of the road from which I had come and came to a halt in front of me. Ajuna was there in the back seat holding the rear door open for me. I got in quickly and the police driver sped down the road to the other cars and came to a final halt.
The policemen had the criminals on their knees in the dust, but the rider, bleeding from a gunshot wound in the shoulder, sat on the ground. Assistant Superintendent Maxwell, who was in charge of the operation, shook hands with me as I walked up.
“They will take us to their den right away,” he said with the confidence of a policeman with a vast knowledge of torture. “Which one is the leader, the Mr. Blue?”
“That’s him,” I pointed.
The Superintendent stared hard at Mr. Blue then gave a slight nod. At once, three hefty policemen pounced on Mr. Blue, raining vicious blows down on him with their booted feet, fists and rifle butts until he was sprawled face down in the dust, twisting in agony. The policemen turned their attention to the other two criminals and they panicked, crying out for mercy.
“Which one of you will lead us to your den or wherever it is you make those videos?” demanded the superintendent.
“I will take you, sir!” cried the guy who had been driving the Corolla. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-five years of age. “I will take you there and tell you anything you want to know.”
The superintendent glanced at me with a look of triumph. then began issuing orders to his men. The captives were bundled into the police vehicles, the Corolla and the motorcycle were confiscated for police use and I got back the Murano with Ajuna behind the wheels and my money intact.
We raced off in a convoy, the police car in the lead.
The drive took less than ten minutes and the ‘den’ turned out to be a nicely furnished three-bedroom private bungalow where we found another accomplice, a pregnant young woman in her twenties, Mr. Blue’s girlfriend. We also found a room full of high-end computer equipment and digital video recording gadgets of all kinds. One wall was covered entirely with shelf racks of DVDs – recording of other couples having sex in different hotel rooms.
Superintendent Maxwell whistled softly. “These criminals have been in business for quite some time.”
With the cooperation of Mr. Blue’s driver-partner, now confessing like a wizard, we found six other DVDs of Estella and Raphael’s sex recording and even a small camera recorder with a dead battery. The superintendent released everything to me as agreed, I gave him a beefy bribe for his cooperation and left him to his job.
It was already late afternoon, so I postponed going to the bank and took the money straight home instead.