Nicholas killed the humming engine of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, pushed open the door and got down from the car. He shut the door and went around the passenger seat to grab his briefcase, then he clicked the lock button and giving an absent nod to his gateman, he turned and marched briskly towards the front door of his duplex house.
It was his. He always felt a surge of pride when he thought about it. That the five-bedroom, six baths and a two-bedroom BQ was his—only his. He’d worked hard for it too! Well, he couldn’t take the entire glory for his success, a good Christian doesn’t. So, he’d worked hard and God has blessed his efforts with success.
He’d worked really hard, seven years as an investment analyst and advisor. He’d met with the wealthiest, the obscenely richest, crème-de-la-crème people in this country and some even outside the country. He’d studied the stock market, counselled them on when to invest and when to sell out. He’d managed their investments and he’d made some of his own. The returns had been unbelievably rewarding—and not just financially too.
They’d come to trust him, the clients he handled their accounts for the investment company he’d worked. They’d trusted him and because they trusted him, they’d been willing to move with him to his own company. And he’d moved, just eighteen months ago he’d moved. He’d turned in his resignation and he’d walked out of the two-storey office building straight for his own two-room office space and he’d started work same day. Six months later, he moved into his own building—a three-storey marble building with personnel filling every office inside. Three months after that, he’d started the building of his duplex home and exactly three months later, he’d moved in.
And now six months after that, he was getting married to the love of his life and they were already having a baby.
“Come on, baby, it’s time for you to go to bed. It’s past nine and I need my darling girl to be well rested for our big day tomorrow—shopping for rings is not an easy thing to do, ya know.” He added teasingly, shutting the door behind him as he walked into the extraordinarily spacious and exquisitely furnished living room.
“I can’t believe we’re flying to Dubai just to pick out our rings.” Celine gushed with a gurgling laughter. “I mean why can’t we just find something here? We have great jewellers in Nigeria, you know. Or we could even order them online, we don’t have to travel all that way just to buy rings, it seems like such an unnecessary waste of money.” She made a sound and then gurgled again.
He loved her laugh. It was childlike and innocent, exactly like she was. He was a millionaire but Celine was completely oblivious of that. He owned an investment company and several estates in and outside the city but that didn’t seem to matter to her. She was a girl who was used to having to count cost and she still did. She worried about him spending too much and too unnecessarily as she often said. She never asked for anything; was always overwhelmed when he gave her anything. She wasn’t greedy, she wasn’t ambitious, she wasn’t a mercenary. And he loved her for that, for her simplicity, her innocence and her easy-going contented nature.
And he wanted to give her everything. Everything that was the very best.
“I know we’ve got jewellers here and that we can order the rings online.” He said. “But I want only the best for my best girl. Besides, while we’re picking out rings, I thought we’d check out venues for our wedding.”
“What!” Celine’s loud shriek almost deafened him. “What do you mean, venue for our wedding? I thought we were getting married in my church here? We’ve already spoken to my Pastor and fixed a date!”
“Of course we’re not.” He laughed, dumped his briefcase on a sofa and marched to his well-stocked bar. He poured himself two fingers of the William Chase Gin and lifting the glass strolled over to the leather rich, sectional sofa and dropped into it. “I want a wedding to be remembered. I want it talked about for generations to come. Baby, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we should enjoy it, savour it… make it the best.”
“But all the way to Dubai?” Celine made a wailing noise. “How would my family come? My friends?”
“My PA is already working out travel details for your family—close family of course. We don’t want a crowd… we don’t need it. And we can fly over two or three of your friends.” He took a sip of his drink and sighed with pleasure at its crispness. “Celine love, I promised you the best and only the very best will I give to you.”
“But you are the best that I want.” Celine protested. “I love you and I only want to be with you, not to spend money doing unnecessary things.”
“And I love you too. And our wedding taking place in Dubai isn’t unnecessary, it is making a statement.” He pushed to his feet. “Now, stop arguing with your wise and generous husband-to-be and go to bed. Don’t sleep late because you know how cranky that makes you in the morning.”
“It’s your baby inside me that makes me cranky in the morning not lack of sleep.” Celine said in a sulky tone that told him she was pouting.
No doubt because she was worrying about the unnecessary expense of a wedding in Dubai. “That’s because my baby wants you giving him enough sleep.” He retorted, grinning.
“It could be a her, you know.”
He laughed at her prim tone. “It could be. But I know it’s a boy. It’s my son you are carrying in there. So listen to him and his daddy and go to bed. Sweet dreams, darling. I love you.”
“I love you too. You’re the best man on earth, the very best.” Celine said and then making the sound of a kiss, ended the call.
Nicholas smiled and slipped the Bluetooth headset off his ear. No, she was the very best, the very best thing that has ever happened to him. He drained the gin and set the glass on the leather top square-shaped centre table. He tugged loose his tie and walked to the loveseat-and-chaise sofa to retrieve his briefcase but stopped at a sudden shuffling sound.
He swept his head up and stared at the Victorian marble stairway. “Uchechi?” He called out the name of his housekeeper. But she shouldn’t be here. She’d left this morning to see her sick mother and would be back tomorrow.
Or hadn’t she left? “Uchechi?” He left the briefcase and walked towards the kitchen. The top-to-bottom tiled and modern furnished kitchen was empty. Everything was spick and span and in place.
Of course, she wasn’t here, he told himself, backtracking to the sofa and picking up his briefcase. It was probably the sound of rustling wind not muffled footsteps, he decided, climbing up the stairs, two at a time.
What he needed was a shower and then a look-over his schedule tomorrow and then straight to bed. He had two meetings with new clients in the morning and he needed to be on top his game. He halted before his bedroom door, it was ajar. He hadn’t left it open. He never left his bedroom door open and Uchechi never did whenever she cleaned it either.
She was the only one allowed to clean his bedroom. None of the cleaners who were hired to clean the house every Saturday ever entered his bedroom. He’d forbade it and Uchechi made sure to always keep the rule.
He stared at the door for a full minute, then he swallowed and slowly stretching forward his right hand, laid it on the doorknob and pushed gently. The room was dark, he let go off the door and reached for the light switch.
The wall-mounted sconce lights came on and lit up the room. He stared about the large room, eyes skimming over the centre-rugged wood tiled floor to the queen-sized neatly laid bed, the mahogany desk and Eames swivel chair, the L-shaped sofa and the reclining chaise and stopped at the 46″ ultra slim wall-mounted television.
Nothing was out of place. Everything was just as he’d left it that morning.
He eyed the bathroom door. It was closed, just as he’d left it that morning too. Inhaling and exhaling slowly, he told himself to stop being paranoid. There was no one there. How could there be? They couldn’t get past Musa without his knowing it, could they?
And if anybody had come to the house, he’d have told him.
He shook his head and turned to push close the door. Humming under his breath—to relax himself—he marched into the room, dumped his briefcase on the desk and shrugging off his jacket, he walked through the open archway into the small space that housed his in-built closet.
He undressed and hung back his suit, then with just his boxer shorts on, strolled out again and turned in the direction of the bathroom.
He squealed and stumbled backward at the sight of a woman in black ensemble standing right in front of the door. “Jesus! What the hell are you doing here?” He cast a frantic glance over his shoulder to the door and then back at the woman. “How did you get inside? Did… did Musa allow you in?”
It was unlikely that his gateman would allow someone inside the compound when no one was around. But even more unlikely was the fact that he’d allow anyone into the house—he didn’t have the key to his front door.
“How did you get into my house?” He repeated the question, swallowing past his thudding heartbeat. “Who are you and how did you get into my house?”
“Isn’t it funny how you’ve forgotten me, Nicholas?” The woman said. “Or is the little veil stopping you from recognising me?” She reached out her left hand and slipped off the black shawl that covered her head and most of her face.
“Stella!” Nicholas exclaimed, recognising her.
“Ah, you see me now and remember me, how nice!” Stella’s unpainted heart-shaped lips curved in a side smile.
It was a cold, cynical smile and it sent a shiver down his spine. He took another step backward. He was afraid and it wasn’t just because she was inside his bedroom without him knowing how she’d entered. It was the utter coldness, the hardness and pure venom that filled her eyes that caused the feeling of fear and anxiety to surge through his veins.
“What are you doing here, Stella? How did you get into my house?”
“I scaled your back fence, how else?” Stella laughed, a single, brittle, derisive sound. “It’s amazing what a difference a little practice can make. And dear Musa didn’t even hear me, I was that quiet.” She laughed again, a sound of pride and pleasure this time.
Nicholas stared at her. “Why would you do that? What do you want from me?” Then it struck him and his eyes widened. “My God, are you a thief now? Are you an armed robber?”
“Of course not!” Stella snorted at the idea. “Don’t be insulting please. I’m not a common thief or an armed robber—hmm, I always wonder what the difference is really, a thief and an armed robber. Looks to me like they do same thing and as such should be regarded as same, don’t you think?” She eyed him with a speculative gaze, her lips pursed.
But the venom was still in her eyes and he was becoming even more scared of her, of her presence in his house, in his bedroom. “If you are not a thief, then why are you here, Stella?”
“I have come to kill you, Nicholas. I have come to save the world the misery of having an evil man like you living in it.” She shifted forward her right hand and he saw the knife in her hand.
Its stainless steel silver blade glistened under the bright lights.
**A little something to entertain us. Tune in Saturday, for the Part 2. Cheers.**