Previously on ALL IN THE KNOWING…
“Esu, take me to Mr. Gantong’s office,” Béisa said, her voice barely above a whisper as she gazed out the car window.
Pam Gantong was a lawyer. He was also very good at digging up information about people for the right price. How he did it, she didn’t know or particularly care, as long as he got her what she wanted.
They arrived at the somewhat run-down two-story building on Church Street, and she looked up at innocuous sign placed by the third window on the second floor: ‘Gantong and Associates, Solicitors and Real Estate’. She smiled as she walked upstairs. She entered a grimy office and was greeted, rather half-heartedly, by a girl with badly-drawn eyebrows, who ushered her into the inner office.
Pam Gantong stood up from his desk, his mouth open wide in an ingratiating smile, his teeth glistening.
“Madam de Madam, I have been waiting for you!” he hailed.
Béisa smiled slowly, her face betraying nothing. “Yes, well…I believe you have the items I requested?”
He nodded as he reached into his desk drawer and withdrew a medium-sized package, wrapped in brown paper, not unlike the envelope in which Sandra’s information had been. Gantong had provided that too, at a steep price.
“Things like that are not easy to find,” Gantong had said during their first meeting. “You know, I have to find people who will source the information, follow the person and that sort of thing…you know, it is quite costly.”
And so it had been. This particular package he’d just handed to her had cost her double what getting information on Sandra had, but it was worth it. She opened the package and glanced at the contents, and after a moment, seemingly pleased, she punched in a number on her cell phone.
“It’s done. Pay it in.” And to the lawyer, she said, “The cash deposit is at this very moment being made into the arranged account. You should receive a notification within fifteen minutes.”
“Why not just do an internet transfer?” he queried.
Béisa paused, raising a brow. “Haba Uncle Gantong…and have bank documents tracing me?”
Gantong smiled another crocodile grin, his teeth glistening as he nodded. “Thank you, Madam. Always a pleasure doing business with you.”
She walked out without a word and upon entering the car, she leaned back against the seat. As Esu pulled away, Béisa chuckled and shook her head. Then she pulled out an old Nokia, slotted in a new SIM card, punched in a number she had written down in her journal and made another call.
“Hello? Yes, is this Shamsu Adamu of EFCC? Yes…I might have something for you… Who am I? A patriotic Nigerian calling in to report a crime…”
Mike felt uneasy. Béisa had been surprisingly mellow, almost loving in the past few days. He couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that something was up, and he felt a sliver of fear run up his spine at the thought.
The sound of her voice, an alluring purr, swept over him as he started and looked up. Béisa never came up to his room. She stood now at his doorway, a diaphanous thigh-length gown skimming over her curves and a knowing smile on her face. He raised his eyebrow in surprise…and appreciation. He had almost forgotten how desirable she could be. She slowly slinked over and put her hands around his neck, planting a kiss firmly on his lips. His breathing quickened.
“Mike, you are my husband and…well, maybe we can try and work things out? I know you’ve misbehaved but…I’ve been thinking…” She tipped her head to the side, staring into his eyes.
“Béisa,” Mike said as his breath quickened, “I may not have done the right thing, but you’re right, I can’t help being a man. And you don’t have a right to meddle into…things.” He gave her a pointed look as he said this.
His wife sighed. “You’re right…I shouldn’t do that.”
Mike sat on the bed, and she moved with him, sitting on his lap.
He steadied her and cleared his throat. “Did you have anything to do with…uhm…scaring somebody?”
“Oh that…” she said, looking away. “I may have…discouraged her but…I did it because I love you. I can’t stand sharing you with anyone else. I had to fight for you.”
Mike felt a surge of pride as he pulled her in for a kiss. The balance had been restored.
Later on that night, when all was silent, Béisa slowly sat up, her hair brushing her shoulder as she leaned over on her elbow and studied her sleeping husband. He slept peacefully, his handsome features etched clearly in the moonlight. She smiled and traced her fingertip over his lips, barely touching him, marvel and regret mingling.
“Oh Mike…” she murmured. “You have no idea…”
Béisa heard the banging on the front door before Mike did the next morning, but she remained still in the bed, affecting slumber.
“Open the door! Open the door! This is EFCC! I say open the door…”
Mike sat up in bed, confusion crossing his features. He got out of bed, threw on some clothes and went to the parlor. She heard him open the door and then an argument ensued. Béisa sat up, stretched and threw on a dressing gown. Then she went to stand by the door that connected the corridor to the living room, listening in on the conversation.
“Are you Mike Yamshak?”
“Yes, I am…”
The uncertainty in Mike’s voice tipped one side of Béisa’s mouth in a smile.
“Well, you are invited to the EFCC Headquarters for an interview this afternoon. We are here to escort you–”
“What?!” Mike burst out, instantly outraged. “On what basis?”
“With regards to your connection to massive fraud involving the sum of fifty million naira as well as some real estate and property scandals that–”
“What!? Me? That’s impossible!”
“Sir, is this your signature?”
Béisa could hear paper shuffling.
“Uhm…yes but it’s clearly forged because I never –”
“Are these not your account numbers? Is this not the registered number of your company?”
There was more shuffling of paper.
“Yes…but I…” The fear was evident in Mike’s voice.
Béisa took a deep breath. It was now time to play the distraught wife. She exited the corridor and burst into the parlor, facing Mike, some of the house staff and three men with EFCC badges. She contorted her features in dismay.
“What’s happening? What is this? What do you want with my husband?” she shrieked.
“Madam please…we are sorry to disturb you in your home, but your husband is wanted by EFCC for questioning with regard to fraud…” said one of the men, a stocky fellow with rheumy eyes.
A shocked expression crossed her face as she clutched her chest. “Fraud? Mike, what are they talking about?”
Mike looked at her beseechingly as the EFCC officials closed in.
“Sir…we can wait for you as you bath and get ready…”
Mike opened his mouth to say something and then nodded dumbly and walked into the room, Béisa following him. As he slowly stripped and got ready for his bath, he shook his head.
“Béisa…I don’t know what they are talking about. That is my signature but I know I didn’t sign those documents.”
Béisa nodded slowly as he walked into the shower. She sank down on the bed as she heard the sound of the shower going on. She sighed, remembering the contents of that package.
The easy part had been forging Mike’s signature. The rest had been quite hard: opening dud accounts and transferring large amounts of money in and out anonymously, acquiring real estate and having it sold illegally in his name, and a few other financial crimes. Gantong had carefully arranged that, and Béisa had seen to it that it could not be traced to her, all transactions having been done on a cash-only basis. She had already transferred most of her cash to other banks and purchased a new house in an inconspicuous suburb in Abuja. The Jos house would certainly be under investigation by the EFCC; no matter, for it held no real emotional value to her and she would be glad to be rid of it.
A slow smile curved her lips and she lay back on the bed and closed her eyes. Soon enough, she heard Mike coming out of the bathroom, his towel wrapped around his waist. She opened her eyes and sat up to meet his puzzled expression. She looked back at him, her face blank.
Mike couldn’t believe this was happening. What was he going to say at the EFCC headquarters? How was he going to get out of this one? He wondered who was behind all his misfortunes.
Suddenly he stopped cold in his tracks. Realization filled him as he came out of the bathroom.
She was lying down on the bed, her eyes closed. She opened her eyes languidly as she heard him approach, and that was when he saw it: a hint of satisfaction on her face.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” he asked.
She kept silent as he moved toward her menacingly.
“It was you!” he hissed. “I should break your little neck right now…”
“Easy Mike,” she said without a hint of fear. “I don’t think you want to try anything stupid with the EFCC guys waiting outside the door. All I have to do is scream, and you’ll be adding assault charges to your economic crime ones.”
He stopped dead in his tracks and stared at this woman, this beautiful stranger.
“Fifteen years, Mike. Fifteen years of marriage and you couldn’t give me what I deserved. I worked to get to where I am while you spent time wasting your money AND mine on those stupid girls. You think I didn’t know? How many has it been? Ten? Fifteen? That Sandra girl was the last straw.”
“But…this, Béisa? How could you do it? How?”
“Simple, Mike. In my world, you get to meet people who have many uses…bankers, lawyers, even the police. People who can do a lot of things if the price is right. Unlike me, you were never too discreet with your finances and it was easy enough for me to manipulate them. Now it’s going to take you a while to get yourself out of this mess, and in that time I will have divorced you and moved on.”
Mike stared at Béisa and felt his blood boiling, unsure of whom he was angrier at – her or himself. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen through her ruse. Oh, how he had underestimated her. He dressed silently and packed a small overnight bag, unsure of how long he would be away.
As he was about to step out he spat a sentence at his wife, “You, Béisa, are the devil.”
As he opened the door to walk out, he heard her retort.
“And living with you, Mike, has been hell.”
Written by Sifa Asani Gowon