Exports

The Godfather by Mario Puzo remains one of the most influential novels of the 20th century, it sold more than a million copies, but more importantly, it gave birth to one of the greatest movies of all time. So what if we had our own Mafia story, with our culture and attitude to embellish it. This is one of those stories geared towards this goal. Comment if you would like a continuation

Chapter One

The first time we saw him, he was leaning on the desk of the noisy club, seemingly absolved from all the quagmire taking place, a laptop placed carefully at the top of the desk, and a glass of a non-alcoholic beverage shaking almost seductively in his hand.

He seemed a little bit tired, maybe from the day's work, or maybe that was just his looks, a drowsy but questioning eyes, a little slanted and positioned specifically almost to investigate, an uncommonly pointed nose, and a mouth that was lovingly curved at the far end.

His hands started moving to wave at a friend, not the waiter; he made no attempt to speak but used hands gestures and gestured expertly like he taught the physically impaired; then came the dashing smile and a half nod of approval.

He closed the laptop and approached the counter, slow but with an air of confidence; he wore a loose-sized shirt, a pencil-tailored black jeans trousers, and an all-white Snicker.

Even with the shirt, you could tell he was a little bit thin with an intimidating tall frame.

Junior sent one of his foot soldiers to draw his attention to us; Jerry approached the counter and whispered surreptitiously into his ears while pointing at our group; then came the slow nod, and Jerry started back.

He continued slinging jokes with the bartender for almost ten minutes after Jerry's intervention; Junior whistled, a gift he had in his very large bags of tricks. He turned, flashed an appreciative smile at us, and turned back; he was going to do this on his own terms.

After what seemed like an eternity, he dropped his beverage glass and walked with his usual grace toward us; I heard a lot of murmured grumblings from so many members of the group, some undoubtedly thought the idiot was being disrespectful, and truthfully I was surprised Junior kept his cool, he was above all notorious for his temper which also made him a fearful figure during the last regime.

He gazed at us from about four inches away, weighing and sizing us up for sure; the group sat in a usual semi-circle formation that was decided according to rank. The new recruits sat at the end of the curve while also facing the door for obvious reasons, the battle and foot soldiers made up the middle of the curve with a lot of smoke balls emitting from there again for obvious reasons, and finally, Junior and his "trusted" advisers sat at the tip of the curve, Junior in the middle his facial appearance and demeanor showcasing power at every turn, he had a thick brown cigar on his lips, his hands curved possessively and almost enviously around me and his eyes staring back glaringly at the evening's punk.

On reaching what Junior's guards called a “conversational distance”, he was stopped and violently searched maybe for payback for his perceived insulting attitudes. after which he was allowed to meet the boss.

Kevin Ejiofor, as he would like to be called (he wouldn't allow any shortening, not even from Junior), had a thin, soft and harmless voice; it seemed to beg attention whenever it was heard; it seduced your subconscious interceding to your auditory process for the audience.

He said, 

“good evening, gentlemen,” and then, looking at me with a naughty smile, added, 

And to you too, my lady”.

 An ordinary lady, hell, almost every other lady would have blushed so badly, they'd have to hide their face, but this was me sitting with the kingpin himself, who had anger issues. Of course, I had mastered my discipline; the certain thing at that moment was that he was a charmer; his drowsy eyes suddenly twinkled as he surveyed the whole group and then looked at the door with an attentive stare of someone who knew this trade or line of living.

Junior replied,

“Look here, Kevin Ejiofor, can I talk to you privately with my friends,”

 He pronounced "friends" with a heavy hint of flattery, Kevin nodded that slow nod again, and Junior sprang to his feet, whistled again, and the group automatically rearranged itself, the soldiers sat up alerted, and the door boys started making calls to the lookouts.

Even after almost a quarter of a century of living in this situation, it still amazed me how organized this group of uneducated touts could work with such cohesion when they believed in what they were doing.

The all-clear sign was passed up the chain of command, and Junior started up towards the backdoor; he moved through the dancehall with recognizable figures pausing so he and his following entourage could find a way through. Junior liked this raw showcase of power; it was one of the eternal advantages of this business; however, with the war raging on, Junior had to follow the stairs instead of the elevator. A machine he usually referred to as a “deathtrap.” So we had to climb a four-floor paint house through the stairs.

Kevin had the rare privilege to walk beside the king and queen; he looked solemn, almost like someone who had done something wrong and had to be executed. I've seen many of them, many cried, but the hard ones just bore their fate and even smiled at the end. Junior always said he would have hired those few if not for the rift it would cause in the group.

On the right side of the top floor, the fifth flat had an unusual iron door. We walked past it towards the next two doors. I wondered how many times the police had raided the iron-constructed door, thinking of the criminal meetings and execution that went on in the building.

Junior tapped thrice on the door, and a low muttering voice said,

“The large or the small,”

Junior replied, usually without his large baritone domineering voice,

“We go for the extra-large.”

The door slid open gently, and an aged man smiled crookedly at Junior, who only replied with a forced grin, he tipped his head towards the exit, and the old man was on his way.

The soldiers struggled in with quick eagle eyes surveying the place for any dangerous situation and nodding slowly. Junior entered the room, followed by Kevin, who looked a little bit uninterested in all the bureaucratic guidelines.

Sitting on the comfortable sofa chair in the extreme left corner of the room, he pointed at the sizable arm of the sofa, and I sat there.

Kevin looked a little bit surprised that I made it so far, I also was still at a loss at the importance of this guy who looked like a tech genius working for Microsoft or a petroleum engineer working for Shell, but he had those deceptive eyes and smile, eyes that he could manipulate for any moment to suit the various situation needed in the business.

This guy had the audacity to delay a call from Junior himself and not feel his famed wrath.

Junior started,

“Kev, so what's up, Kedu?”

He waved his head negatively, and Junior got a whispering from one of his advisers, and he nodded and said

“Sorry, forgive my manners,” another shocker. Junior apologizing? Well, the world was going to end. The only time he apologized was in bed.

“Kevin Ejiofor Kedu? How are you”?

“I'm fine,” he replied gently.

“So I've heard about you from the former boss; he would never utter two sentences in any business dealings without me hearing Kevin would have done so and so, in fact, you wielded so much power on his psyche that I wouldn't be surprised if had assigned you as his successor if the cold hands of death hadn't grabbed him without notice and when the war broke out you never joined.”

Something clicked in my head immediately; the feeling was too deep that it took all my self-will not to scream,

“ You're the Kevboy Papa loved almost to obsession.”

How could I have missed it? Dad called him Kevboy always with a laugh, saying make sure you don't mention this in his presence, or he'll skin you alive.

I always thought he was talking about a business colleague in another state, New York or New Jersey perhaps, another Igbo man trying to compete with the Italians in this Mafia business.

He smiled, 

“Chief was a good Father to me; he brought me from Nigeria based on what he owed my Dad after his death; he had to process my papers and literally import me into the promised Land after his son was killed and I, almost sharing the same fate, we had to split up or risk eventual annihilation.”

“So I've heard, a stroke of genius Chief calls it, so why haven't you been around since his demise”?

“Good question; well, I attended the burial; most of you won't recognize me apart from your severe enemy right now. The doctor, he's the only one far back enough to remember my face. Chief's young daughter was still in Nigeria by the time I left, and I think so were you”.

His answers were clear and specific, not condescending but not timid either; I've watched many times as Junior did this kind of intense interrogation, him sitting on this sofa or the king's chair in the executive room and leaving his opponent standing, in fact, that was the reason why there was only one chair in the room. He maintained threatening eye contact with the victims throughout the sessions and cowered them into doing exactly what he wanted; this was what ultimately made him an unstoppable commander under Papa.

But this man presented a novel challenge; Junior's victims were either mentally weak or psychologically stubborn, in which case (the latter) brute force was used to put the fear of God into their brain, but this Kevguy or Kev-boy as Papa called him, didn't cower or fidget because of the lack of seats, instead, he adapted and enjoyed the situation even, walking around and gesticulating with that ever-present smile on his lips, he was very compromising and so discouraged the use of brute force on him.

I watched as Junior sat uncomfortably on his soft, comfortable sofa; this was going unlike he thought it would.

Junior asked,

“Do you know how I found you and why was it so easy to do”?

Junior was smirking now; he had found a gripping weakness, or so he thought; if he could prove before all present that this smiling dude was overhyped, then he surely had him in his clutches.

But the smile never left Kev's face; he asked, did you really find me?

“Let me guess, you tailed Flora for weeks as she transported goods through the Northside of New York, and then you discovered her boyfriend's house, then through Matt’s timely and specific information, you tracked down my usual spot at the Grayson clubhouse and approaching the bartender after much financial persuasion he agreed to beg me to collect a package for him in this godforsaken city, and I miraculously agreed to do it anonymously without guards and lookouts. Is that about it”?

It was one of the very few occasions where I had ever seen Junior stunned; I mean, he was a seasoned soldier who earned his stripes as a Commander; he had seen things, heard things, but this was different; this was someone outsmarting him in his own mind, it was horrific but almost funny to witness, of course, the group didn’t laugh, but even he could have heard the heavy breathing that was going on around the room.

“Everyone get out now! He bellowed”.

Papa was a talent finder, simple as that. He had controlled the criminal underworld of the Nigerian populace in the Northern district of the promised land for more than 25 years. Rarely dropping bodies or giving the law enforcement agencies any leverage, he wasn’t an Einstein or Vito Corleone, but he knew how to make friends and use them. He was so conscious of the people he allowed into his true life that his son died trying to get in.

Papa came to the promised land as a young biochemical student just off the University of Nigeria Nsukka, top of his class (well, maybe he was Einstein), and came to forward his dream of helping to cure malaria once and for all in his continent, he had ideas of course, and there was the American dream pushing him on, he could make it here.

At first, or according to him during the trial days, he tried to get close to the Asians; they were brilliant in science, he said, the Japs, the Indians, and the Chinese. Together they made up the Holy Trinity of American science future, but this was the early seventies, and Martin Luther King Jr's works were still reaping a little bit of reward, true the double assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr had shaken the nation, but still niggers were still lynched, and nobody wanted to be the first person to begin the reintegration of this black hoodlums into civil society.

So his frustrations were palpable, and as a rock on the constant attacks of rain began to deplete, so did his dreams. He enrolled in several part-time jobs well suited for niggars, at least according to popular beliefs, but according to Papa, he wanted more. He wanted to touch something, something so abstract he couldn’t even imagine it; his head would hurt if he tried.

So he accepted an invitation to start corner drug distribution in the evening; it paid, it really paid, and with it and his knack for making the right acquaintances, he was only going to go one way.

A few years later, he brought Sammy (Samuel Obisi), but the boy was harsh, violent, and hardly thought of consequences; these were actually good attributes for a soldier, but Papa wanted more, but his son wouldn’t listen one day he turned up dead.

Other characters came through, Joe the talkative, I and Mama, and of course Junior; no one asked anyone about their background; we were here to make the much-acclaimed dollar bills; Junior slotted in perfectly as Papa’s right-hand soldier; he did anything that was commanded suicidal or not, good or evil, he was almost not human, never complained and before long he had the respect and loyalty of every member of the muscle team.

That was when the trouble started brewing; Papa’s oldest friend, the good doctor or Mr. D as we called him, didn’t like the amount of loyalty that the muscle group showed Junior, he didn’t also like my close relationship with Junior, something I think Papa also objected to, but Junior was too important now to rebuke, so he let him be, Junior wasn’t going to do anything stupid at least not why he was still around, and that was true, he worshipped Papa but not so much Mr. D, who saw himself not as an adviser but as a partner, this war was kept at bay by Papa’s presence and human expert management.

But Papa was gone a few months later, the doctor accused Junior, Junior accused Mr. D, and the war began; Junior had the muscle, but Mr. D had the real estate and the connections due to his close proximity with Papa; Junior also had me and with the way our meeting had gone he had another and a more vital ally Kevin Ejiofor.

After the room was vacated, Junior climbed down his high horse and asked him why he came, if he knew all along about the plan, and why hadn’t he weighed in on the ongoing conflict.

He said that first of all; he thought the conflict was none of his business since he had his own enterprise to run, and secondly, he had let the plan go on because he thought the person with the human resources always won if he used it well. 

“Why,” Junior asked meekly?

“Why what”? Kev asked 

“Why are you choosing my side”?

Kev gave me a look that simply said, wasn’t it obvious?

Junior’s eyes narrowed, and just as quickly as that thought crossed his face, it was gone. He replied,

“We share a common enemy, a person that wanted the Chief all to himself like a jealous first wife, just as you heard Chief mention my name to you, so he did to Mr. D, and the consequences were several backstabbing and eternal resentment because Chief always agreed to do as I said, especially after his ill-advice got Sammy killed and almost got me killed too. So you see, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, is not such a bad adage in this situation”.

Junior looked at him thoroughly, closed his eyes, and exhaled; he didn’t want this; it would make him look weak and irresponsible, calling another person to aid his war, that was not what an independent general did, but it was better to be disappointed than be dead as he told the group this morning.

“So how much for your muscle”? Junior asked bitterly

Kev smiled; he suddenly had an intensified handsomeness, one that blurred one’s thinking faculty or maybe just the ladies, he replied

“I’m not giving any muscle towards your course.”

Junior turned so abruptly that I would have sworn he would hit the guy, his eyes flashing red screamed of danger, but Kev just stared into space with a confident demeanor; Junior screamed, 

“If you don’t have any muscle, what are you doing here”?

Kev, in his cool seductive voice, replied,

“Oh, I do have muscle, plenty of them, but my soldiers are contracted, and I’m not risking any single life to aid a war you would win hands down with half of the muscle I’ve seen your parade if you had the right strategy.”

This time Junior did step out to confront him, so much so that I had to draw him back; this intellectual insult again, he had heard it numerous times from all his detractors. Even Papa himself chipped it in whenever he was pissed at Junior; Mr. D had championed it; you might have all the physical powers on this Galaxy, but your brain is just a hollow dead chip.

Again and again, time without number, he had tried to prove them wrong, these detractors. However, many were jealous, had their point too, and Junior knew this, he was not as stupid as they said, but he hardly did any critical thinking before action and never weighed the long-term pros and cons of each of his actions. He had lost up to five able-bodied bodied guys due to his erratic actions since the conflict started.

He looked at Kev, who was still calm and unperturbed by Junior’s explosion, and asked him,

“If you’re not bringing the muscle to a war, what are you now bringing”?

That smile resurfaced; he had won this clash of egos; he looked intently at Junior and addressed me;

“What did your Father do with me”? Before I could reply, Junior injuriously cut me off, 

“I know what you mean, but I have little need for advisers. I have many of them standing right outside the door right now, and when they urged me to contact you, I was hoping you would spare us a few men to finish off this fight, but since you’re not offering that, then Adieu,”.

He turned briskly and started towards the door; Kev smiled and said,

“If you change your mind, remember the color Orange is made up off,” and he turned towards the window, shaking his head.

The drive home was quiet; we used the usual intersections, making random stops and cutting unusual corners; this war had really taken its toll on Junior, his eyes sunk in, looking suspiciously at everything and everyone.

The phone buzzed, and one of his lieutenants answered; as a rule, he rarely answered phone calls himself, just as Papa had done; after a few nodding of the head, the lieutenant turned and whispered to Junior, whose eyes betrayed his rage immediately.

“They attacked the storehouse.”

“The damn storehouse.”

The storehouse was a cold restricted area in the west district, surrounded by tall buildings that dwarfed it to the extent of obscurity; it was expertly situated (all thanks to Papa) in the back of a popular warehouse, which contained a drinking spot for the evenings, with a secret underground tunnel that ran six miles down into the very next habitual building, it was a subtle attempt to hide in plain sight that succeeded.

The problem was that only Junior knew about the storehouse because of his days as a Commander; Papa wouldn’t even disclose the location to his trusted Mr. D; much to his displeasure, it was one of the very few bragging rights earned by Junior and his attempt to ultimate leadership.

He gave the order without thinking, no consultation, nothing; the car reversed violently, followed closely by the armed militia which made up his muscle; they crossed the intersection luckily without police checkpoints and traveled almost at breakneck speed towards the much-cherished oil well.

It took a closer look at the location to find out something was amiss; there was no loitering, no discreetly parked cars, no lookouts, and no car tracks to show if the infiltrators had left; everyone, even the dumbest macho man on the team could smell a disgusting rat.

Suddenly, two tall bodyguards dropped dead, with minimal sounds, no mistake, headshots. We were automatically in the game, but this time it was the game of life and death; Junior reacted proactively; this was his show, and he didn’t spend the better parts of a decade getting jittery in situations like this.

He shouted his orders,

“Polo guard the rear,” 

“Toni, protect the babe,” 

“The rest take valuable cover” That was when the real gunshots were unleashed. I’ve heard gunshots before; hell, Papa sometimes practiced with the soldiers in the evening in the backyard; I could climb on top of the couch against all of mum’s well-intentioned advice and watch with horrific thrill as they hit their mark repeatedly over and over again.

However, this was different; it’s easy enough resting on top of a foamy cushion without any fear of danger at all and enjoy the awkward thrill of deadly weaponry, but this was fighting for one’s life, we hid under the steel protector of the basement while Junior chooses his targets, but this was a well-planned attempt at annihilation.

The most highly ranked group members were already seeking refuge when Junior had to use the payphone for backup. For more than half an hour, we were subjected to, or better put, at the mercy of the level of shooting accuracy of Mr. D’s group. Thank heavens he got the ill-trained muscles, or else there would have been nothing left to save by the time backup arrived.

With the arrival of Sean and his crew, the attacker beat a retreat and gave us just enough window to escape into the bulletproof van. Sean lost two of his men while Junior got a shot in the ankle for his troubles.

“This is fucked”, Sean bellowed as we descended into the home avenue; how could you have been so gullible. Sean was Junior’s most trusted adviser, a hot-tempered, fair-skinned guy Papa got from the immigration office; he had always been funny with his continuous attempt to speak the black colloquial due to his skin color and his hopeless imitation skills and watching him rant about Junior’s short-sightedness was also very much amusing, well to everyone except Junior himself who was getting a bullet pulled out of his ankle.

The residential gate slid open on our arrival, and we drove across the well-kept garden; it was one of the few things Papa really considered precious, possibly above humans. He would wake up early in the morning to water and tend to them himself and watch as the early sunrise triggered their daily resurrections; on his death bed, he kept asking about his garden, how it was going to be abandoned even though I swore with all the African deities he introduced me to that I’ll take care of it, and so far I’ve managed to keep that promise.

Junior, who had not uttered a word since he came into the van for safety at the storehouse, limped with aid into the house, which from the outside was a modest duplex, while the inside was another thing altogether.

The marble floor shone with exquisite delicacy. The wall reverberated royalty. The ceiling looked as if they were constructed with nothing else but gold; Junior managed to keep hold of the building due to his illicit relationship with me. I walked across the room into the visitor’s restroom and dropped to my knees; I noticed patches of blood on my milk gown, probably from the headshot sustained by one of my protectors. It was too much to bear; I sobbed gently at first but with a lot of heart as time went on.

“What was this”? “Is this the legacy Papa left behind”? “Why was I still here”? “Why didn’t I travel back to Nigeria with Mama as she advised.”

However, these were too many and too complicated to get a specific answer; the answer came.

The restroom's door was tapped twice, and a husky voice almost whispered,

“Junior wants to talk to you upstairs.”

As I walked towards the executive room, I wondered what rash decision had entered his head now; if I knew even half of the Man I was sharing my bed with, I knew this altercation wouldn’t go unanswered. The executive room was located on the top floor with detective cameras posted on every angle between the ground stairs and the room’s door.

I opened the door and saw Junior at the working table. I always saw Papa every night when I came to say my goodnights; he would always be there scribbling, making a phone call, or nodding his head as his crew gave him the daily reports. Junior had never sat on that chair; he didn’t even like staying in the room unless when he was fucking me senseless or when he wanted to do his usual power struggle interrogations. What did he want now? Sex? After what happened today? Is he deprived?

He opened his squinted eyes and motioned for me to sit, he waved his hands, and most of the crew members left, including the doctor treating the bullet wound. He looked at me desperately and said,

“They were right, weren’t they? I don’t just get this maneuvering instinct that your father had; maybe I was just greedy, I wanted everything he had, including you, but looking at things, it’s almost obvious I can’t handle shit”.

I took a deep breath, “was he testing me? did his crew members show signs of dissent? Maybe he wanted to know if I felt that way too before he started his paybacks”. 

I retorted,

“What really happened out there today”?

“Someone planted a GPS machine on our car today; the crew says they don’t know shit about it, but it must have been when we were meeting with the Kevin guy.” 

“So”? I asked astonished

He looked at me for what seemed like forever as if saying it couldn’t have been you; you were in with me the whole damn time and replied;

“The call was fake; they used the GPS to track us and kill two birds with one stone, find out where the storehouse is, and annihilate us.”

“OH,” I whimpered; it was a deadly plan; the storehouse now required security 24/7, its subtlety and obscurity couldn’t help now, and that meant armed conflict most of the time, something Papa fought really hard to avoid.

“What do I do, girl? I’m lost here; if I don’t do some kind of unique magic, my men would start doubting me and make themselves vulnerable to D; if I make a move, I might as well be heading into another of his devious plans”.

It was really a hard situation, caught between the demon and the dark blue sea, I looked at him, and he suddenly seemed older, his dimples looked shrunken, and his thick eyebrows were disoriented; this was the most vulnerable I had ever seen him in my life.

I thought of what Papa would do and said, 

“Why not call Kevin”? He narrowed his eyes, and I immediately regretted the suggestion; I should have known his ego came first; he’d rather die than……..

“Pass me the phone,” he whispered; dazed, I walked up to the dresser table and collected the private number phone, my legs almost moving on their own accord, walked towards him and sat.

“There is no other way I said; a leader must have capable advisers no matter how smart the person is; the Italians called it a consigliere; Papa would never decide without first of all presenting the situation to his trusted advisers.”

He nodded and pressed the phone number he held crumbled between his fingers; it began to ring, there was no answer he rang again, the same thing and on the third ring a high-pitched female voice answered and said,

“Customer service, how can I help you”?

He almost switched it off, but I shouted behind him, “What makes the color Orange”?

The line went silent for a couple of minutes, and the familiar voice of the intriguing guy we had just met answered.

“Fire and Blood.”

From childhood, I have not been

Like others were; I have not seen

As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.

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