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Chief Hanson Briggs had skeletons in his closet.
At night they kept him up, rattling in his mind and chasing him into any dreams he had. He knew he would not get rest until he made restitution for his past sins. While the bulk of his money had been made through legal means, his initial capital was stained with the tears of others. He had been a thug, responsible for cowing many people into silence while their rights were trampled on, working for men who glutted on money made from illegal oil bunkering, and later becoming involved in the business itself. While most of his cohorts had gone a step further and taken a few lives so they could brag about their body count, he had shied away from deadly violence itself. Until that night that would never leave him…
He could still hear the cries of the child and the pleas of the mother. They hunted him. At night, the cries seemed louder than the thunder of his gun which had silenced them…
“Sir, we’re here.”
The voice of his driver roused Chief Hanson Briggs from his thoughts. He looked around, and saw that the jeep was idling in the parking lot of Kilimanjaro, the popular fast food outlet. He disembarked from the vehicle and walked over to the driver’s side where the driver was preparing to wait patiently till the Chief was ready to leave.
“Victor, come down and give me the car keys.” Chief Hanson Briggs ordered.
The driver hesitated, then switched off the ignition and clambered out of the car. He was puzzled at his employer’s request, but over one year of driving the man around had taught him to expect the unexpected.
Chief Hanson Briggs pulled out a wad of money and peeled off a few notes from it. “Take this money. Go in there, buy whatever you want and wait for me. I’ll be back in thirty minutes to one hour.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Victor answered and then watched, scratching his head, as the chief entered the jeep and drove out of the Kilimanjaro parking lot.
Victor looked down at the money in his hand, then pushed it into his pocket before heading into the fast-food joint. “Big men sef.” He murmured to himself. “I will never understand them.”
Chief Hanson Briggs drove quickly and expertly, enjoying being behind the wheel of the car. It had been a while since he had driven himself around and he admitted he missed it.
Under twenty minutes, he reached his destination, a hotel tucked in an out-of-way corner. Dubbed Hotel Switzerland, the place was aptly named. It was neutral ground, the kind of place where you would see sworn enemies drinking on diffretent tables, but ignoring each other. Policy-making deals and life-saving truces had been made in Hotel Switzerland. It was known only to a select few, the movers and shakers of the society, which was why Chief Hanson Briggs had ditched his driver.
He drove into the hotel’s parking lot, parked and then sauntered to a private dining area, where the person he had come to meet was already waiting.
The other man was dressed as opulently as the Chief, his expensive perfume warring with the air fresheners that filled the air-conditioned space. They greeted each other warmly and ordered for drinks from an attentive waiter. Then they chatted inanely for a few minutes, until the drinks arrived.
“I think some of our people are trying to buy my businesses out from under my nose.” Chief Hanson Briggs said, suddenly broaching what had made him call for the meeting. “Do you know anything about this?”
The other man chuckled and took a long sip of his drink. “Everyone is looking for a good deal. You have good business concerns, always worth buying…”
“You know it’s more than that.” the Chief interrupted. “These weren’t just offers to get some shares, this was an attempt to buy it all.”
“Sounds like you are being offered a lot of money then. Why not take the offers?”
It was Chief Hanson Briggs turn to smile. “If you had asked me to my face, maybe I would have.” The other man tried to look surprised, but failed. “Yes I know you’re behind at least one of these attempts. What’s this about, Steve? Why are you guys trying to buy me out?”
The other man shrugged. “Maybe we’re just trying to expand.”
Chief Hanson Briggs leaned forward. “It’s a play, isn’t it? The start of some grand plan. Grab me by the balls and squeeze…for what? Assurance i won’t reveal our old secrets? I’m as culpable as you guys. I have blood on my hands too…”
“But do you?” the other man interrupted, his gaze sly.
The Chief kept his expression puzzled, but inside, he was alarmed. “Now you just sound paranoid. If it’s in my best interests to keep secrets, I will.”
“IF.” The other man repeated. “That’s the problem right there. You’ve always been a man with a conscience. And a conscience is bad for us.”
Chief Hanson Briggs snorted derisively and took a long sip of his drink. “This is a bad excuse for trying to hurt my business. What suddenly changed? We had no distrust between us before now, so what’s spooked you guys? How do you think I can hurt you?”
The other man looked away, hiding some truth in his eyes. “Short answer, you cannot.”
“Says one of the men desperate to push me into a corner where I owe them something.” Chief Briggs leaned forward. “The past is the past, and I have no intention of digging it up. Lay off my business.”
“Or what?” the other man challenged.
Chief Hanson Briggs smiled. “Steve, you know we’re both brutes. The difference between us is that I have finesse. It doesn’t mean I can’t get dirty. Lay. Off. My. Business.”
The other man stood up and bowed mockingly. “Yes, boss.”
When the waiter returned, Chief Hanson Briggs was sitting alone, brooding over the conversation. He paid for the drink and tipped the waiter heavily, as he always did, because he believed in getting the small men on his side. Especially those in Hotel Switzerland—who were privy to loud conversations between important men who had drunk a little more than they should have.
His generosity paid off this time.
As the waiter bowed and shook his hand in thanks, the Chief felt the young man slip a small note to him. He kept his face deadpan as he unobtrusively slid it into his pocket and walked over to where his car was parked. He waited till he drove out of the hotel before finding a quiet spot to pull over and read the note.
The hastily scribbled words sent a lance of fear through his heart.
THEY HAVE SOMEONE IN YOUR HOUSE.
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