She stirred in her sleep pouting flawless full lips. As he watched her, tenderness rose in his chest. He smiled, shaking his head in mock disbelief. In a few hours, they’d be married. Watching her made him feel grateful. And scared. He hadn’t thought he would make it through school alive. But here was he– Seychelle Udoka, Don Scorpio–getting married. His eyes grew misty but he brushed away the tears. A Black Python don mustn’t be caught getting wet. Never.
A flash of blue caught his eye and he rushed to the window. Apart from the expansive well trimmed lawn and a few egrets he couldn’t see anything. His inner censors began to hum. This must be serious, he thought. His sensors didn’t lie. He made for the door.
Chineze was awake. He exhaled in a low whoosh and turned to meet her luminous eyes boring into his.
“Jewel, you are up. Nice. Get ready. We leave by ten.”
“We do ?” Chineze said, stifling a yawn and walking over to bury her face in his neck. “I feel like I am bursting with joy, honey. You are such a gift. I love you.”
“As are you Jewel. I love you too. I always will, with my heart and all the blood that flows through it. I will love you till my heart cam pump no more.”
“Is not worthy of you my Jewel. But I mean it. I love with you my life.”
Giving her a peck, he inched towards the door. “I’m going for a little walk. Get ready, the make-up artiste and her crew will be here soon. I’ll be right back.”
Without waiting to hear her reply, he was out of the door.
Outside, the sun was perched above the hills casting a golden glow over the expansive golf course that was the pride of Le Meridien, the regional five star hotel. Acres of rolling hills, exotic flowers, merry birds and glorious clouds greeted his eyes. He was about abort the phoney stroll plan when he saw it.
On the sand between the house and the garden, someone had made some markings on the sand. Nsibidi, an ancient code of signs and symbols used to pass messages to members of a sect.
The markings had been made with a vulture’s feather. Its message was clear: We are here.
Fear punched him in the gut while rage coursed through his veins. He came to marry Chineze in the remote village of Idu to stay under the radar. He had tried to get visas to London but it didn’t work. The embassy said he couldn’t justify the large amounts of money in his account wit his sketchy work history…. Now this.
Many people wanted him dead, souvenirs from a five year career as a Black Python hitman. But who wanted him so badly? This badly?
Sometimes it felt like his life was soundtrack of blood and pain. From his mother discovering she was pregnant with him and not having a clue whose it was, to his drunk ‘Uncle’ Lazarus throwing mom and him out under a rain of punches one dark night.
He could still see his mother weeping and retching into the overflowing gutter till she fainted. The land lady, bless her soul, had rushed then to the hospital.
He could still hear the sounds of women groaning in cold ward: the sick, the hurt, the dying.
He could still smell the blend of antiseptic, uneaten food and body fluids.
He could still feel the cement floor beneath his back– cold, hard, cruel.
It changed him. Even before he was told his mother was dead, he vowed never to be weak. He vowed never to let others dictate his life’s choices. He would dictate theirs, instead.
It was no surprise, when he got into university on a scholarship (his third) he joined the Black Pythons. The cult made him feel less vulnerable. It gave him a sense of belonging and power but at a price. He was happy to pay. He had so much rage twirling in his gut, sending people off was therapeutic.
Now, that was unimportant. He didn’t want to carry his bloody past into the future. That’s why he had changed towns four times in the last six years. He kept no cell phone and no permanent address. He knew the lengths rival cults could go to avenge a perceived slight. An ex-hitman was a prime target. In spite of himself, his hands were quivering.
He erased the marks and went back to get dressed. He had just an hour before his wedding. On the way he would make a few calls for back up from the hotel lobby. For the first time in years he said a prayer. Lord, keep Jewel and baby safe. Amen.
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