Enemy Circles – Season Two, Episode 20

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This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series Enemy Circles - Season Two

Jomo, a young nomadic man was betrothed to a fellow clan’s girl, Bonajo, and they were to be married during the merriment of reuniting at the designated reunion camp in mountains of central Africa. Unfortunately, a huge war campaign was to prevent that simple thing from happening until after more than three years.

A CLASH OF SCHEMES

“Did he not promise to lodge you in the harem, which would be nice if you’d agree? I don’t know why you decided you don’t like that”. Najjah was so disappointed in Galah’s decision she wanted to knock some sense into the girl’s retrograde centre of thinking. Staying in the harem would have allowed Najjah opportunity to cultivate better relationship with Moalama that would be of benefit to her, even after the desert princess was long gone.

At the music event she told her she wanted to stroll to catch her breath. Even though Najjah wanted to follow her, she refused. Later she returned back and instead of enjoying the party some more, she said they had to leave the party at once. As hard as she tried to convince the girl to at least stay longer to thank their host before they leave, she was received by stone hard objection. And now she was telling her that there wouldn’t be any staying at the harem. May the desert sand bury her backward kingdom for all eternity, Najjah cursed silently.

“Yes, he promised that.” Galah was preparing packages and luggage like she was planning to leave right away. She paid little heed to Najjah’s wailings.

That annoyed Najjah. “Why are you packing?”

Enemy Circles on Memorila
Enemy Circles on Memorila

Galah stopped what she was doing in exasperation that was transforming into silent fury and sat down. “Abu Saleh is returning in two days’ time, remember?” Galah stared deep into the hazy eyes of her old interlocutor.

“Yes, so he said.” Najjah still didn’t see why Galah needed to start packing this early and she said so.

“First of all, that is why we can’t relocate to the harem as you so wish. Second, I don’t want Abu Saleh to come back and have to wait for me to pack.” Galah’s soft tone barely hid her annoyance. “And I want to make sure that I have not spent all my gold at the harem market and have nothing to show my gratitude to my gentle host.”

Najjah caught the bait. “Galah, you are must kind. You are a very thoughtful girl.”

Galah glared at the aged woman for the mention of girl, which sent Najjah to some unprepared chores as she realized what it was about, before she returned back to her packing and her plans to meet Gassan, the guard that she met at the palace tonight for what he promised to provide for her.

 

***

Djamila fixed her theatrical smile as she approached Torilla standing by the balcony of the first level of the harem, whose face opened to the far away sea, her hair cascading in the fresh breeze blowing from the cool sea. Djamila knew that Torilla always stared in the direction of her country across the sea when she yearned for home or something is troubling her. She decided this was a perfect time for what she was about to propose to her.

“Salam alaikum”

Torilla answered without turning to look at the approaching footsteps, knowing very well whose they were. They have not talked since after the music evening, which is what she was replaying on the screen of her mind as she stood looking distantly at the far waters miles away. She secretly hoped Djamila would come to her soon, so they could talk about it, knowing that it would be suicidal to make the mistake of approaching the Arab doll first. Now that she came, she thought that was perfect, but the more disinterested she appeared the better ground she gets in the eventual future venture with Djamila.

“Torilla, when I first saw your dress in your boudoir I thought it was maroon, but in the dim evening light at the music evening it looked, I don’t know dark brown.” Djamila began with trivialities as it was with her ways.

Dark brown sounds pretty offensive to Torilla, but she is willing to play the game. “I had that thought, too. It did appear dark in the evening light. I should have worn brighter colours like Agnes’ or that which the black girl wore.” She turned to face her converser. “I agree the problem is with too much preparation, we made such colossal colour mistakes. I think that was the same reason why I overheard Moalama telling some guests that you looked like a maid during the event. I mean what were you thinking when you wore dark red and black. What combination of darker colours could one possibly have worn? You made the right choice fleeing the evening before the guests resort to doing something drastic on your behalf.”

Djamila was expecting the dagger, but this was too sharp and it hurts. To be reminded of the shame she endured during the event was one thing she could not pretend was nothing. But she did a good job not betraying her hurt feelings with faltering smiles.

“We both made mistakes for taking the event lightly, or rather too seriously, haven’t we?” She adjusted the shoulders of her camise; a simple cut cotton blouse with sequin designs on the neck and sleeves. She looked at Torilla. “You are as uncomfortable with the turn of events as I was.” She moved closer, lowering her voice to a mere whisper. “Let’s do something about it, and deal with the situation once and for all.”

Finally!

Torilla looked at Djamila, and for the first time in her stay in the palace found out that Djamila was not wearing her theatrical mask. She looked almost unrecognizable being serious. “By doing something together you mean what, precisely?” Torilla was enjoying this.

“You know very well what I mean.” Djamila said, beginning to feel annoyed at having to bear herself vulnerable. She had to win a score. “Or we can forget it; it seems you are not interested.” She braved the weather and gestured to start leaving.

“Wait.” Torilla barked a little bit louder than she intended

Djamila smiled in the other direction where Torilla couldn’t see. Slowly she turned, returning all theatrics. “I am listening,” she said without expression.

Torilla moved closer to Djamila looking over her shoulder to make sure no one was hearing. “Do you mean we should kill her?”

“Torilla!” Djamila feigned shock. “I never knew you could be this wicked. How could you think of killing a human being?”

“Por favour!” Torilla raised her hands, motioning Djamila to stop her wordings.

“Djamila you don’t have to call the attention of the whole harem.” she sighed heavily. “I thought that was what you were suggesting.”

Djamila stepped away from Torilla, pretending to be disgusted at her idea of her wanting someone dead.

“I may be jealous of the black girl but I will never kill her or anybody for that matter.” She secretly smiled to herself, now that things were working as she planned. She just succeeded in planting the thought in Torilla’s mind, made her utter the words, and made her feel ashamed of her murderous suggestion – first stage cleared.

“What I was suggesting is to poison her skin or something, so that she looks ugly for the rest of her life.” Djamila continued.

“OK that is a better idea, I guess.” Torilla said. “What do we do, then?”

Djamila laughed her actress laughter that made Torilla rolled her eyes in annoyance. Why is she thinking of killing Djamila instead? She asked herself.

“Don’t worry girl, I have it all planned. I will provide the poison and you will put it in the girl’s drink, simple.”

Torilla was not comfortable with the plan. Why did she have to do riskier business of putting the poison in Bonajo’s drink? She said so.

“OK, I am surprised you are concerned about that, my girl.” Djamila chided Torilla. “A few minutes ago you were suggesting we should kill the girl in cold blood, and now you are cowering from as simple as putting a drop or two of skin poison in her drink. How do you expect us to kill her when you made the suggestion, by black magic? Go ahead, let’s hear your murderous plan, it might be a better alternative.”

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Torilla felt like she was caught redhanded in the attempt of killing the black girl. “Look, I had no plans of killing her; I only asked because sincerely that was what I thought you were suggesting. But now that you suggested black magic it sounds like a cleaner job to that of the poisoning stuff.”

Djamila threw her hands in the air. “Torilla girl, if you must kill the girl for God sake go ahead and do that, but that is not my plan.”

“You suggested black magic, I didn’t.” Torilla played back the game Djamila was playing, of suggesting that she was the wicked one and she the saint, by suggesting skin poisoning as a less evil alternative to murdering. “And I know if I should kill her, you would be happier than you are now. After all you suffered more humliation at the event than I, and moreover, you came to me, I didn’t come to you. Now tell me who has the more murder motives?”

“Are you or are you not putting the skin poison?” Djamila calmed down and removed the theatrics once again. She could see that playing games would not make things easier for both of them, better get it done with, they have ample time to trade hurtful words afterwards. “The woman I asked to provide me with the poison told me that it is a charmed poison, hence very dangerous.”

Torilla calmed down too, seeing that she was not totally losing it, and that it is not going to appear like she was the evil and Djamila the saint, in this devilish joint project they are willing to embark.

“I will.”

 

***

Moalama has gone way overboard, Farah brooded. How could he even think of sending that girl to the king’s chamber? He might be stupid with his artistic naivety and obsession not to realize what he was doing. This was a plain insult to my already not so popular status in the palace. She looked at her reflection in the life sized mirror standing before her.

Her health condition was rapidly deteriorating from so much worry. After her apparition at the music event she went back to hiding again. She didn’t look healthy, though she stubbornly refused to acknowledge it. One look at her sallow skin and deep sunken eyes could easily prove her wrong, however. Even she could see that as she looked at her reflection. She was an ugly queen and she let the whole world saw that because she wanted to confirm a rumour about an unsuitable concubine. Now everybody knew that she was pregnant; even Moalama hinted at that with additional insults that after childbirth she will be even uglier. How dared he?

She was carrying a child, everybody was aware of that now. She was not hiding that fact, but was also not broadcasting the news. She would rather it reached people when she had some palace business settled, that way it would be the talk of the palace on the king’s arrival. It didn’t seem to matter so much to her, though, now that she was spending her time thinking of an entirely different development – Bonajo’s unexpected beauty.

She knew that the girl was no doubt beautiful, as unlikely as the notion might sound. She also was sure that she will be the king’s favourite on his arrival. Ah, that fat womanizer! She wondered what a single man needed with so many women. If the girl could mesmerize the whole attendees of the most elite event in the Maghreb kingdom, there is no speck of doubt that she would do a similar thing to the lustful king; the same king that practically disregarded her existence as his queen for most of his life, and preferred partying with the flashy concubines. Now that Moalama created more reasons for the king to forget her in a form of the black girl, it will be the distraction that would rival her pregnancy news to the king. She didn’t want that.

She called her maid.

“Who can we trust? I want someone taken care of.” She breezed out naturally and without any guilt.

Lataky very well knew who that someone was. She knew the queen very much as well as her last two days’ worries. She hated Bonajo even more than her queen did, or so she believed. How could a dirty black girl be elevated to such a lofty position overnight? She could very well have been that person; after all she was an Arab, and had been in the harem for too long. More so, the queen was made object of the city’s jokes after the music evening. She heard people saying the queen should be demoted to maidenhood. She never made the mistake of relaying such gossip to the queen, though.

Lataky moved closer to where the queen was sitting, at the edge of her vast ornate bed, where she needlessly looked into the mirror like she was expecting it to replay the music event. Making a scene to indicate the gravity of the issue, Lataky said, “If that is the case, I know just the right person, my queen.”

“Go and meet him at once.” Queen Farah didn’t as much as move a fraction of her body. It was like she was expecting a similar answer. “I need a clean job. I will pay him a thousand dinars, and if he finished successfully I will add him another 500. And you too, I will give you 500 dinar.” The queen then turned around to look at Lataky in the face, her sick face reminding one of a one-minute-old corpse.

Lataky wished she didn’t stand that close.

“If you make a mistake, I will have you both killed.”

Lataky was shocked by the queens’ deadly threat. She also knew that killing her would be the easiest and most logical thing for the queen to do.

May Allah damn you for eternity, bitch. She thought.

“I won’t make a mistake, my queen.” Lataky said out loud, her voice slightly shaking.

“Good, now go and return back with news of the arrangements, we don’t have much time.” With that the queen turned away from Lataky and continued gazing into the mirror once again, letting a flood of thoughts taking possession of her.

 

 

 

***

Bushes and trees grew freely, overtaking the once carefully designed garden by the power of nature. Where glittering tiles and decorative paints used to be, was now substituted by dull colours of dying moss, while the empty fountain was repainted with unsightly algae, whose lifecycle was always interrupted by the ever changing weather.

Gassan hissed a complaint for the umpteenth time, he would rather be somewhere doing more important and productive tasks than be here for more than the two hours he came to spent waiting. Time was running out for him to undertake what he promised Nira, and by God he was not planning to disappoint the exotic and mysterious evening music guest. She was charming and exuded gold and affluence. This could be his break in this boring life if he delivered what was expected of him. But instead here he was surrounded by this sad landscape.

At the beginning he was not sure if what Nira asked from him was not wrong and grave. It could cost him everything he ever had at that point of his life if he made a mistake, but ‘if’ was good, because he also knew that if he delivered well, the gold the woman promised him, he would never have it any other way working at the palace or anywhere. He could run away and establish a business somewhere in Misra or Libya, or even cross the sea to the holy land of Mecca. With enough gold, opportunities were endless.

She was meeting him today to collect what she asked him to get her, which up till now he couldn’t, because Lataky appeared mysteriously and whispered in his ear that he should meet her in this dowdy God forsaken garden of the old part of the palace in another minute, claiming to have something very important to discuss. Now it was two hours and she was still nowhere to be found. He wished the ugly wench had an accident on her way here and died.

Gassan hissed again, feeling fangs of anger pulling at his innings. The time will come when he would teach the stupid maid a lesson. Because she served the queen she always thought she was better than him. In fact she thought she was doing him a favour by dating him; like she was born by the queen, instead of being her fool of a maid – a top class maid, as she loved to claim, but she was still a maid. But the arrogant woman will never get that through her thick serving skull. He would do it for her, Gassan thought. He only put up with her because she dropped silver or two in his palm every now and then. He had no doubt she stole those from the queen.

“Good you are here, I am sorry I am a little late.” Lataky appeared, covered in a dark cloak like in a nightmare.

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A little late? Two hours, a little late? This woman had guts. Gassan thought. “It is OK; you know I will wait for longer if it is to see you.”

“I know.” Lataky smiled with pride.

No, you will know, Gassan thought. “What is it you say is important?” He asked instead.

“Let’s sit down. Lataky found an old bench meant for a single seat. Gassan stood. “You know the black girl that is a concubine by Moalama’s insanity?” When Gassan nodded, she continued. She can’t live. She is already making the queen an object of scorn and ridicule, and that cannot continue. What is she? A black barbaric girl to compete with an Arab blood, it is not going to happen.”

You look more barbaric to me than her, you ugly dumb-ass, Gassan thought. “You are right, I hate that girl. What was Moalama thinking when he chose her? You could very well have been a far better and deserving choice.”

Lataky laughed with genuine pleasure. “Oh! Gassan you think so?”

I think you are too old and irritating and ugly as Moalama’s behind. “Of course my love, Now what do you want me to do.?” He said out loud.

Lataky rearrange her clock, like it was some expensive medieval gown. “Kill the girl. The queen wants the girl dead and she would give you one thousand five hundred dinar – one thousand before and five hundred after”.

Gassan’s eyes bulged out.” Are you serious?”

Lataky frowned. “What do you mean, serious? Serious that the queen wants you to kill the girl or serious that she will pay as much? Don’t tell me that you are too timid to do such a job.”

“No, you don’t understand, I can kill the girl’s whole family and the generation before it for free. It is the money I am interested in.”

Lataky’s smiles returned. “I know you can do it. Don’t worry yourself about the money.”

Gassan put two of his palms on his head, still in disbelief. My lucky star has finally smiled on me. Gold is showering in my direction in the amount I never thought possible.

 

***

Djamila knew that Torilla was not as dumb as she wanted to make herself believe, but she was blinded by hatred for the black girl and would walk right into the trap she was setting for her. That was why she included her in her final plans. If she could get the Portuguese woman to put the deadly lethal black mamba’s poison in the girl’s drink, thinking that it was a mere skin poison, she would implicate herself. Nothing she would say about their joint connivance would vindicate her. She will be disgraced and striped of her honour in the harem. By then the girl would hopefully have already consumed the poison, therefore two enemies down without her doing as much. All she had to do was call someone as Torilla do her dirty end of the plan, making sure that there was a witness who saw her doing it, and also that she allowed enough time for the victim to take the first sip before she find Moalama. By then of course, there would be no going back for both Torilla and the black girl.

She was happy with her plans that she was having many good nights’ sleep. The queen was no threat at all; she only made the king puke and with the raucous of what she was scheming over, she will visit the king’s chamber on his arrival, she hopped dreamily. But that is only if Agnes didn’t highjack the bed chambers. Agnes could and would sure do that, Djamila thought sadly, as she tried desperately to hook the shoulder clasps of the gown she was putting on. Where the hell is this goddamn maid?

She knew that the European woman had her own scheming going on the way she was all over Moalama, trying to be a pleasing girl.  And as she gathered later, she was a friend to the black girl now. The two were spotted by her birds talking at the disastrous music event after she fled, and later at the harem courtyard by the fountain. Djamila hissed under her breath, realizing that the king’s bedchambers were still far away from her. Agnes was a beautiful woman and Moalama was still her ally, unlike her. But she thought it would be a good thing to do away with two foes and later find a way to deal with the last one standing.

“Are you inside?” Torilla called out from behind the curtains.

“Yes, come in.” Djamila quickly chased away her worries and wore her actress face. She finally could fasten the clasps of the sequin gown that was quite revealing at the chest area. “Torilla you must have wanted this as much as I do, or even more. Look at how you come early. And by God you should learn to say salam when you enter places.”

Torilla gathered her flowing robe, which would have likely swept clean the space between her boudoir and Djamila’s. Her dark curls also flowed freely down her shoulder.

The witch always succeeds to catch attention with her natural beauty, Djamila thought, side glancing the colourful beads decorating the front of Torilla’s gown.

“Yes I do, and I thought getting the stuff early will enable me plan my own journey to the black girl’s room and get things over with. As for saying salam, if you already forgot that I am Christian, then perhaps you need to consult those doctors that handle memory loss problems or something similar.” She stopped to register the sting in Djamila’s yes; she did. “And what a lovely gown that is you’re wearing, I love the revealing front.” Torilla sat on the bed perching a smile on her face.

Djamila tried to dismiss the slight change of attitude in Torilla regarding her enthusiasm and some new found confidence. It could be perfect for her plans, but she hated the unfamiliar and unexpected.

“Thank you.” Djamila said simply, trying to get a clue.

“Don’t you have something for a drink?” Torilla asked, as she raked her cascading raven curls away from her forehead, pretending to be nervous about the whole thing.

Now this is more like it. “Relax girl. I am not surprised you are losing your guts on this.” Djamila said, with the excitement of someone who just came to solve a difficult puzzle – she was scared, that was why she was being different. “Had it been you were of Arab decent you would find out that facing danger is a natural thing and one that causes us no qualms”. Djamila sang with sweetness, as she poured two cups of fruit juice.

Here we go again – Arab superiority! – Torilla thought, as she eyed the juice. Outwardly she said, “Now, where is it?” Torilla dropped the empty cup in the tray, after sipping up the whole content.

“OK girl, don’t be overenthusiastic and end up messing the plan I spent careful time weaving with extensive intelligence.” Djamila took the liberty to place herself higher than Torilla, and which the latter seemed not to care. This was no ther attitude, totally not Torilla’s.

Djamila seeing no point in wasting time trading sarcasm when the other party is not responding decided to end it. She stood up and strode to an ornate chest, opened it carefully, pausing unnecessarily to perhaps build more anxiety in Torilla. Then she rose and walked back to her, carrying a small black bottle in her two palms like a sacred treasure. “Here you go. She handed over the bottle containing the dark liquid inside. Go and do your nasty job as you put it.”

Torilla grabbed the bottle and started leaving.

Djamila was not sure the woman was alright or if she could even trust her at this display of strange behaviour. It couldn’t be nervousness, it was something else. But she thought she would be late if she was planning against her. Because she would be busted before she moved an inch into her plans. Thank God she is to be eliminated, according to the plans.

Torilla stopped at the door and turned as if reading Djamila’s thoughts.

“Djamila!”

“Uh huh.” Djamila answered, as she coquettishly picked the other cup of juice between her slender fingers.

“Prepare for what happens next.” Torilla said, and before Djamila could answer, she was gone.

Djamila was unnerved by the random craze of Torilla’s attitude. She won’t be doing that much, by the time this was over.

She emptied the content of the cup, feeling irritated. Why did she always have to feel like she was a loser?

 

***

“Her highness, everything was properly done.”

Lataky was not sure if indeed everything has been done properly, or if everything else would go as planned without a problem. She was sure Gassan was the best person she could trust that could do the job. He was a loyal and overzealous lover, and would only do as she wished to please her.  They had been lovers for a very long time; she knew his mind, his Arab pride and more importantly, his obedience to her wishes and even moreso, his love for gold. It wasn’t difficult for her to plant the murderous thoughts in his mind, particularly with the size of the reward incentive.

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“His name is Gassan – a burly man with huge arms. He would kill Bonajo for free owing to her racial background, but the incentive of the payment made it all easy.” Lataky told the queen.

Lataky was shaking as she explained. She was sure that was the best that could be done, however she was not feeling comfortable with it and was in no position to say so, so she just prayed that all goes well. If Gassan got in trouble, could she find another man as loyal as him? He treated her like a queen. She was worried about him, even though he seemed not to have that concern at all.

“Open that chest and count a thousand dinars for him.” Farah was absentminded; she looked even worse than a few hours ago. She didn’t seem to move an inch since when she last talked to Lataky about her evil intent.

Has she tipped over? Lataky thought, as she bent over to count the money. She was beginning to get scared about the whole issue she heard what the queen said about killing her if the plan failed.

“Remember, if anything went wrong…” Lataky heard her say like she was watching her thoughts on a TV screen.  “…I will have you both killed.” Then she added like what she said was not grave at all. “And when you are done come back quickly and fill my bath tub.”

The first words struck Lataky at her spine, sending chilly pins through her blood streams. The queen definitely was crazy. She stopped at her counting briefly, as if enlightened, then quickly scooped more dinar that was way more than the prescribed thousand dinars and left the room, avoiding the queen all together.

 

***

Gassan was waiting at the dead garden where she left him.

“The queen is losing her mind.” Lataky said as she handed over the cloth containing the money, her face looking older with her new found worries.

“What do you mean? Is she not paying as she promised.” Gassan said, as he counted the money, his eyes darting with glee.

“She continuously threatened to kill me if this thing went wrong.” Lataky said nervously. “How can I be sure she won’t kill me even if it went fine, just so as to keep her secret silent forever?”

“She won’t.” Gassan was almost dancing with joy at his good fortune and was not paying much attention.

“Have you been listening or are you more concerned with your gain?” Lataky almost shouted out in exasperation.

Gassan quickly looked around to see if someone was within earshot. “Have you gone mad, why are you screaming? What if someone heard you?”

“I am telling you that the queen promised to kill me if you make a mistake, but you weren’t listening.”

“Who says I wasn’t listening? You have to calm down, don’t you trust I can do this without spoiling everything by letting someone hear your screams and come down to question why? Hence giving the queen a good reason to kill you?” Which I wish she would; Gassan added in his mind.

For a split second Lataky saw a Gassan she never knew, or perhaps ignored for a very long time. A moment ago he was all over her with praises and declaration of love, now it was as if it was only the gold she brought that existed. Even his words were not very nice, they sounded fulgurous to her ears. He might be a perfect choice for the job, but was he madly in love with her as she believed?

Lataky sat down with a heave of someone carrying an enormous burden, in her mind she knew that she was in a deep trouble. “Not only me she promised to kill if things went bad, you as well.” She murmured. “And the way I see it if she is concerned about saving her face, she would eventually have us killed even if the plan succeeded. That way her secrets will be safe.”

Gassan’s fun ended. “What?”

“Yes, you heard me. Now that you heard your life is in danger you are paying more attention.” Lataky covered her face with the palms of her hands.

Gassan knelt down in front of her. “Lataky, I am sorry I didn’t mean to be rude. I promise you I won’t make a mistake; don’t you worry about the queen, OK? I will never do anything to put the life of the centre of my universe in danger; you know that, don’t you?”

Lataky was relieved; this was the Gassan she knew – all sweet and honey. Perhaps she was overreacting because of the amount of pressure she was under at that point. Even then, shrewd as she was, she knew his brains are not adequate enough to handle the danger looming ahead. She have to come up with plans to save them both, because she was sure the queen would do whatever it takes to bury her secrets forever. Gassan might be a bully sometimes but he sure knew how to make a woman feel better. She will have him as a husband someday, but she would have to make sure they live to see that day.

“I love you. I can’t be the reason for your misery.” She told him, looking deep into his eyes.

I can sure be the reason for yours, old hag. Gassan replied in his mind. “If you like we can run away from the palace with the money, and perhaps more that you will steal from the Queen. We can get married and start a new life somewhere. What do you think?”

He was not totally dumb. Lataky thought carefully. This was one sure way out of this.

“It is dangerous. She will find us.” She said openly, hesitating. But God this could be the only way out.

Gassan smiled. “No she won’t. Provided I killed the girl, she will be glad not to have us around, that way her secret is safe for all time.”

“I don’t know, it’s too risky, though I have to agree with you it’s the only guarantee that we live after the job is done, but what if the Queen is determined to clean her track of all debris of evidence, and tried to find us?” Lataky was thinking seriously about Gassan’s proposal. A few hours before the queen told her of the evil intention she had no reason in the world to want to go away from the cosiness of the palace, but now things have changed within those few hours, and she knew that the power game is a dangerous one, it is either you live or you die, you can’t be in between.

“Come on, my love. Think about it, your life will be more in danger if you stay in the palace as you say. Who knows she might even frame you for something sinister and have you executed. But even if she sent a hunting team after us there are millions of chances that she may not find us.”

“What must I do?” Lataky gave in. If he could think of all that within that short time, then surely she can trust him to be in control, she thought. Gassan thought it was going to be easy with Lataky. He wasn’t going to tell her about Nira. By the time he collected Nira’s gold and that which Lataky would steal from the Queen later, life would have a whole new dimension for him. He was too excited he wanted to burst into ecstatic laughter.

“Wait until I killed the girl. Next tomorrow, in the frenzy of the king’s arrival and the chaos of the murder of the girl, you sneak a chance and steal enough gold – or ring, necklace, earrings, anything of value that you can easily transport – from the Queen, and meet me at the southern gate and we take off.”

“What if I was caught?” She still believed Gassan’s plans were not well thought of. He was rushing and without a plan B. A moment ago he wasn’t showing any sign that he harboured such plans, and all of a sudden he was giving ideas which seemed not bad at all, but at a precarious speed of decision. Being the Queen’s maid was as high ranking as any palace maid could get. If she allowed Gassan’s plans to launch and as a result lose what she had, she would have nothing left. But it would be even more deadly staying with the queen after the job had been done.

“What if you weren’t? We will have enough money to live to old age; we will marry each other and have kids. Is this not worth trying?”

Lataky heart skipped a beat at the unexpected proposal. She thought Gassan’s plans were worth trying.

It has been done, Gassan thought wickedly.

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Bashir Kabir

Born, raised and studied in Kano State, Bashir Kabir has a degree in Physics and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Physics, all in Bayero University, Kano. He is married with a kid and currently works at Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Kano.

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