He looked at the necklace, shook his head and threw it on the table. He did not understand art at all. The necklace was not even made of gold, how could it cost so much? But it wasn’t his job to care about the art or what it cost, his job was to handle business. And business was good when your best allies were not questioning you.
He looked at Tiny Tony seated in front of him, he admired the man. He was a businessman to the core. He did his job, collected his pay and never asked questions. But he was also a man who valued contracts; written or spoken. It was ironic how a man with so much integrity would be involved in the re-acquisition business. He didn’t have time to enjoy the irony though, Tiny Tony was clearly unhappy.
“Tony, you have something on your mind?” He asked.
“You lied to me.” Tiny Tony said, his voice measured. He could tell Tony was trying not to blow his top.
“I did not lie to you.” He replied.
“Don’t joke with me you son of…”
“Stop it right there. No one comes into my house and insults me.”
He knew who Tiny Tony was and what he could do but he also had a reputation to protect. If one person, even someone as reputable as Tiny Tony could insult him and get away with it, soon every Tom, Dick and Hannah would think they could do the same.
“Look Tony, I apologize if you are angry and I understand. Believe me I do.” He said. “But you have to understand my situation too. I don’t call the shots and you know that.”
“You gave me your word man to man.” Tiny Tony said. “All I had to do was poke around a little and I found out you were the one behind the hit. How long do you think it will take for Martins to find you?”
He smiled, walked around his desk and sat on the edge. Tiny Tony had to raise his neck at a bigger angle to look at him. He’d learnt that little things like this mattered in power play.
“Martins is a craftsman, a very good one but still a craftsman. He doesn’t have the brain for business or strategy that you and I have. That is why he will continue to work for us.”
Tiny Tony laughed. “Work for us? Martins is done. He doesn’t trust me anymore which means he doesn’t trust anyone. He won’t take a job even if you promised him the seven kingdoms.”
“The seven kingdoms?”
“It is a game of thrones reference. What I’m saying is, Martins won’t take any job anymore. Not from me, not from you, not from the President of the World.”
“President of the World?”
“You understand what I’m saying.”
He understood what he was saying and he had also had that doubt but not anymore. Men like Martins could not help what they were. He was a thief and he could never stop. He could go dark for a while, but that wouldn’t be for long.
“Tony, how long have you known me?”
“I don’t care. It wasn’t the years I was counting, it was the number of times you’d told me a lie. It had always been zero until yesterday.”
“Will you let that go already?” The old boy was stubborn. “I lied, I’m sorry. My boss wanted the woman dead, what was I supposed to do? Consider your feelings?”
“So, it was a business decision? Nothing to do with me or Martins?”
“That is exactly what I’m telling you.”
He could tell Tiny Tony did not believe what he’d just said but of course he didn’t expect him to; the man was no fool.
He picked up an envelope from his desk and threw it in front of Tiny Tony.
“I have another job for you and your boy.” He said.
“Have you been listening to me? Martins is done. And so am I.”
“Are you looking at me? Don’t you see I’m smiling?”
Tiny Tony paused, he could see he was confused.
“Just open the damn envelope Tony.”
Tiny Tony slowly picked up the envelope and opened it. He removed the check inside and his eyes widened.
“This is a lot of money.” Tiny Tony said.
“And that is just the down payment.”
“I don’t know about this. I don’t think money is enough to tempt Martins at this point.”
“You think this is about money?”
“It’s always about money.” Tiny Tony said.
He laughed, stood and walked over to his mini bar. He picked a pack of cigarettes, removed a stick and lighted it.
“Mind if I smoke?” He asked.
“You’re already smoking, why are you asking me?”
“What does Martins care more about than money?”
“I don’t know, his daughter, jewelry.”
“Jewelry, exactly. And which particular, locally made, foreign based and totally unattainable piece of jewelry is Martins most obsessed about?”
Tiny Tony’s eyes widened again, this time more than it did for the money.
“No way.” Tiny Tony said.
“Look who you are talking to.”
“You know where the Blue Canim is?”
“Yes and we want Martins to steal that for us. The question is will he do it?”
“Hell no.” Martins screamed and threw the phone against the wall.
Idiot! He’d just wasted a perfectly good phone on a perfectly useless man. He could not believe Tiny Tony had the nerve to ask him to do a job. The man used to be one of his most trusted allies but he was fast becoming one of the people he wished he could kill. It was not going to matter for much longer. He was leaving the country in a couple of weeks with his daughter and RoseAnn. After a long summer of fun and reflection he was sure he was not coming back to this life.
The phone rang on the floor. He looked at the phone, so it wasn’t dead yet. He picked it up and looked, the screen was broken; he couldn’t even see who was calling. He slid his finger from left to right on the screen. He winced as the glass cut him a little.
“Listen to me Joe.”
“Tony?” He could not believe the bastard had the nerve to call back.
He tried to end the call but the screen was too broken.
“The Blue Canim Joe.” The sound filtered through the phone speaker.
He took the phone to his ear immediately. “What did you say?”
“Joe, the job I have is the Blue Canim.”
He could not believe what he was hearing. “Nobody has seen it in years.”
“I know, I was surprised too but that is the job.”
Martins swallowed, what was he supposed to do? The Blue freaking Canim!
“Can I call you back?”
He dropped the phone on a couch and began to pace. He was confused. A part of him screamed for him to let it go but he couldn’t. That part of him did not understand how much he wanted this. This was the jewelry that took down his mentor. His mentor had tried stealing the Blue Canim and like everybody else who did he was caught.
He had so many big jobs in his time: he had stolen in a government house, he had stolen from a minister’s convoy, he had even stolen from a general in the army barracks but none of these compared to stealing the Blue Canim. If he did this and pulled it off, it was proof he was better than his mentor. Atletes gave their all to break Olympic records, Astronauts defied logic to access new planets, he would do all he could to steal the Blue Canim.
He picked up the phone, he had to talk to Tiny Tony. He could see nothing on the screen, he needed to get another phone.
He squinted at the phone then held it against his ear. “Tony?”
“So what did you decide?”
“You didn’t end the call?”
“No, I didn’t. So are you game?”
He wanted to say yes immediately but he needed some reassurances. This was his last gig, probably, he couldn’t leave much to chance.
“Who gave you this job?” Martins asked.
“You know I can’t tell you that.”
“Same person as last time?”
“What? No.” Tiny Tony said.
Martins paused, he’d heard the hesitation in Tiny Tony’s voice. There was something fishy going on. It is the Blue Canim!
“Am I stealing this from a person or a location?”
“I don’t know yet. Nobody was sure you would agree, the guy couldn’t just give me the address.”
“Tell him, I’ll do it. Get me that address and a deadline.”
“What’s your price?”
“After I get the Canim, I’ll name my price.” Martins said. “Now, please end the call.”
Martins waited till he heard the dial tone before placing the phone on the table.
The phone had barely touched the table when it began to ring. He slid his finger across the screen, this time slowly.
“Tony?” Martins said.
“Tony? Who is Tony?”
“Sorry, who is this?”
“Am I speaking to Mister Joe Martins from the Jewelry store?”
The voice was familiar. “Who is this?”
What now? “Detective, what can I do for you?”
“Can you see me at your store immediately? I have a flight to catch in two hours and I would hate to miss it.”
Martins cleared his throat. “May I ask what this is about?”
“I wanted to ask you some questions about a robbery that took place at The White Agate yesterday.”
Detective Muritala watched the man pour himself a cup of coffee. He’d once been addicted to coffee himself so he always looked with pity when people casually poured coffee like it was water. There was something not so casual about this Mister Joe Martins though. He was not panicky or shifty or any of the things that generally aroused his attention, in fact he was normal. Too normal. He acted with too much ease, as if he was trying to stay calm.
“So what can I do for you Detective?”
Detective Muritala stared at him for a little more than was normal, still he got no reaction from the man. Something was definitely amiss.
“I came here last time asking about a piece of jewelry, I’m here for the same purpose.”
Martins sat, his knees tucked beneath his desk and his right hand curled around the cup.
“Please, go on.”
“The ring was appraised in your store before it was stolen and somehow you couldn’t help with that. Maybe you can help with this necklace.”
Detective Muritala placed a couple of pictures of the necklace on the table. For the first time, Martin’s calm façade showed a little crack.
“This necklace was appraised here too?”
“No, not that I know of. Was it?”
“No, of course, it wasn’t.” Martins said and sighed.
Was that relief?
“Mister Martins, I have to ask for my own peace of mind, do you know anything about the person or people who stole these items?”
Martins smiled, he was back to his cool guy disguise. “If I did Detective, I would tell you. Anybody who is out there stealing jewelry is my enemy as much as yours. I should be the one most afraid of him.”
“Am I what?”
“Afraid of the thief?”
He smiled again. “With you in charge of the case, I’m sure I have nothing to worry about.”
Detective Muritala was not buying all the nonsense Martins was selling but he was used to this type of men, he wouldn’t keep the pretense up forever. He was bound to slip, he just had to be ready to catch the slip.
“Please take a good look at the jewelry and tell me what you can about it and who would have an interest in it.”
“I’m sorry but that is not a question I have an answer to.”
Detective Muritala sat up. Maybe he needed to ease up on analyzing this man as a suspect, he was here to beg for help.
“Mister Martins, I don’t know what you think about me or the institution I represent but I really need your help here. The woman this necklace was stolen from is somebody important to me. She was murdered, I need to find out who did this.”
Martins looked at him and Detective Muritala saw another break in the pretense but it was short-lived.
“I’m sorry Detective, I don’t know what to tell you.”
“You don’t know or you won’t say?”
A knock sounded on the door before he could respond.
“Come in.” Detective Muritala said.
A young lady popped in her head. “A friend is here to see you sir. He said I should tell you it’s Tony.”
“Please tell him to go, I’ll see him later.”
“Wait.” Detective Muritala said.
“Excuse me?” Martins said.
He was not sure why he’d asked to wait but maybe seeing Martins talk to someone else could reveal a little more.
“Please tell the man to enter, thank you.” Detective Muritala said.
The girl left and closed the door.
“I’m sorry, but you can’t do that.” Martins said. “I have a private meeting with the man.”
“I just need to see you talk to someone with your guards down, that’s all. Although now that I see how nervous you are, I want to attend this meeting.”
“Detective, I have nothing to offer you but if you’re going to be insulting me in my own office, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“I apologize.” Detective Muritala said. “I meant no offense.”
He stood, he’d seen enough, Mister Martins knew about the stolen items. He was probably helping the thief sell the stolen items. As soon as he was back from Kaduna, he would get a warrant to search the store.
He got to the door and looked back. “Sorry again for the trouble.”
The door opened and a short, mean looking man stood in front of him. He’d seen the man before.
“Thank you Detective for coming, please close the door on your way out.” Martins said.
Detective Muritala walked out of the office and left the door open. He’d seen that little man somewhere before. Was he linked with the robbery? Was that why Martins was nervous?
Detective Muritala stopped and looked back and his eyes met Martin’s as he closed the door. He remembered where he’d seen the little man before. This was no longer a guess, Mister Joe Martins was definitely connected to the robberies.
Detective Muritala arrived at the hospital barely hanging on. He was tired and weak. His shirt stuck to his body with sweat and his collars were soaked. This was not the first impression he wanted to make on his son. The boy probably thought he was an irresponsible father who abandoned his mother but at least he shouldn’t look like a loser while he made his apologies. He had to clean up a little.
He walked to the attendant at the reception and got directions to the bathroom. He entered and crashed on top of a toilet seat. He let out a couple of sighs and leaned back in the seat. His tiredness was not entirely due to the journey, it was partly mental. He was not sure how he was supposed to tell Sekiya their sponsor was dead. It was even tougher since he truly could not provide the money his son needed. He wanted to cry, tears had welled up in his eyes and they were ready to fall. He grabbed a tissue and dabbed at his eyes, he was not going to cry. If what Sekiya told him was accurate, he still had a couple of days to gather the money. And he would, even if he had to give his life for it.
Ten minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom in a clean shirt. He trudged to the room where his son was waiting, partly due to his tiredness but mostly because he was afraid of what he was going to meet.
He was about ten feet away from the room when he heard the commotion. He forgot all about his tiredness and ran. Oh God, please. He got to the door of the room and made to enter but a nurse stopped him.
“He’s my son.” He screamed. “Let me in, he’s my son.”
The nurse pushed him out and closed the door in his face. He wanted to punch the door open but that was not going to do him or his son any good. What was happening in there? Was his son dying? Was he dead? He had to meet his son before he died. But no, he was not going to die Insha Allah, he would make sure of it.
The door opened and Sekiya came out, crying. Tears welled up in his face as he grabbed her.
“Is he…?” He started but his voice faded.
“No Musa, he’s not dead.” She said and he sighed, alhamdulilah. “But he’s dying. We need to find Mariam.”
“Sekiya,” He started, wondering if telling her the truth was a good idea. “Mariam is dead. She was killed yesterday.”
“What?” Sekiya exclaimed. “If Mariam is dead, then Ahmad is dead.”
No, there was no way he was going to allow his son to die. He would save his son even if he had to sell his soul to do it. Even if he had to sell it to a jewelry thief.