SMASH AND GRAB
Philipps sat in his APC a mile from the palace gate. There were three armoured personnel carriers and a black limousine. They were well off the main road – concealed by bushes.
Philipps waited anxiously by the radio.
A signal crackled in ”Watt to commander – Watt to commander”. It was Nicholas Watt’s voice.
”Commander receiving. Over” said Philipps avidly.
”Mission accomplished. Target is down. Repeat;Target is down. Over”
”Excellent! Well done. Over” he said jubilant. Philipps was beginning to think the coupsters would not be runners up after all.
”Just one thing sir. There was resistance.’ ‘, said Watt guiltily.”Repeat. There was resistance. Had to shoot someone. So we are compromised. Over”
”You had to shoot someone? No problem. How long ago was this? Over”
”Five minutes. Repeat five minutes. Over”
”Five minutes. That’s fine. We were going to go ahead in another five whether we heard from you or not. As surprise is compromised we will go ahead right now. Go ahead with the rest of the plan. Over and out.”
Watt had thought it better not to tell Philipps that he had killed a woman. He would let him think it was a man. Watt knew Philipps had a strong moral scruple against killing women.
Philipps then go on the radio. ”Beach party. Beach party. This is commander. Go ahead now. Radio target has been eliminated. Radio target has been eliminated. Go head now.”
”Receiving. This is beach party. Roger that. Going ahead with mission now. Repeat. I will go ahead with mission now.” said Jonathon Wynn a mile away on a dinghy. He could see a few lights on by the door of the presidential palace. Just occasionally he saw moonlight glint off a rifle or a soldier light a cigarette.
Wynn sat in his wet suit on a dinghy 200 metres off shore. Beside Jonathon Wynn was a comrade also in a wetsuit but only to go ashore if Wynn failed. He nodded at Jonathon. Wynn put his mask on and then rolled over backwards and slowly lowered himself into into the sea, striving to make as little noise as possible. He was an excellent frogman. His powerful thighs propelled his fat frame through the dark water. He had to wear plenty of lead around his waist. He was as lardy and buoyant as a seal.
In a minute Wynn was swimming up the lagoon and up the rill that came past the gate house.
The water was only 2 metres deep but no one would expect a frogman to be swimming up the stream in the middle of the night.
Wynn stopped under the tiny footbridge as the plan dictated. He removed his mask and air tank. He took off his flippers and left them under the bridge. Wearing his surf boots he gingerly climbed up the muddy bank of the almost stagnant stream.
Wynn could see the gate 100 metres away. Two guards stood inside the gate – staring at the stairs and chatting idly. A bright light above them illuminated them nicely.
Wynn got onto the grass and crept within 50 metres. Then he removed his gun with silencer from his wetsuit.
Wynn took aim at the plumper fellow. He waited till he was sure. He breathed once then fired. The bullet struck the man in the chest. The soldier grunted quietly. He put his right hand to clutch the wound. His comrade through the other fellow was joking.
Wynn shifted his sights onto the unwounded soldier. He carefully took aim. He then squeezed the trigger. A bullet pranged off the bar of the gate. Miss. Wynn had not breathed before firing.
The sentry knew something was wrong. He had heard the bullet ricochet off the metal gate. He went a few steps to his comrade who was now sitting down and breathing only with difficulty.
Jonathon Wynn took aim anew. He saw his target stooped over trying to stem the bleeding from his comrade’s chest. Wynn took pains to zero in on the centre of his target’s mass. It was the middle of the back. He breathed out and then pulled the trigger. He saw he hit a bit above where he aimed – but it was still a bullet in the upper back. The man growled and knelt down. Neither man was dead.
Wynn risked standing up. He aimed carefully at the second man. He saw his target steady himself and turn in Wynn’s direction. The soldier was getting his rifle off his shoulder. But being wounded it was hard to do so.
Wynn had better shoot before his enemy did. Now his enemy was facing him but could not make Wynn out. If the Bornoese simply started shooting it would alert his comrades.
Wynn aimed for the chest. He exhaled and fired. This time he hit the man bang on. His enemy fell back. Then the man’s soul took wing.
There was still one man leaning against the fence – his breathing was laboured from his wound but he was not dying soon. His face was contemplative.
Wynn walked briskly over. He was within 10 metres when his enemy saw him. They even made eye contact. The soldier went for his rifle but he was losing blood fast; his respiration was desultory. He was unable to steady his weapon.
Wynn took aim with both hands – aiming for the man’s head. His enemy then put up his hands and waved them across each other to say – ”don’t”. He raised them a little in token of surrender.
Wynn did not hesitate. He pulled the trigger. Fuck! Missed again. The man became frantic and tried to gasp a plea. This time Wynn aimed true and pulled the trigger. A bullet struck the soldier in the forehead and the man fell dead.
Wynn then hurriedly opened the gate. He Took his walkie talkie out and radioed Philipps.
”Beach party to commander – beach party to commander. Mission accomplished. Mission accomplished. Over.”
Philipps received the news with delight. ”Commander receiving. Well done. Is the gate open. Repeat. Is the gate open? Over”
”Roger. Gate is open. Repeat. Gate is open. I shot both dead first time. Over”, he said with some embellishment.
”Beach party. You are a beauty. We will be there in 2 minutes. Over and out.”
”Out ” said Wynn. A beauty? Wynn was the most hideous man alive. Not just in the physical sense. Philipps was thinking perhaps he had been right not to let Wynn cool his heels in a filthy Moroccan prison.
Philipps got on his radio and ordered his vehicles to move. In fact the APC in front had a man with binoculars watching the gate a mile away. He had seen the men fall and the gate open.
The convoy drove at 20 miles an hour along the road – not so fast as to raise any more suspicion than 4 vehicles would driving in the middle of the night in a country with very few cars. The convoy purred up to the gates – finding them wide ajar as Wynn had promised.
The men in the limousine saw Wynn in his frogman suit waving merrily. There was a black chauffeur in a grey chauffeur’s uniform complete with cap. Beside him sat Sani in a blue pinstriped suit.In the back seat was a chubby middle aged black man. Sani flashed a very genuine smile and gave Wynn a thumbs up as the car cruised by. Wynn noticed a small Nigerian Flag affixed to the bonnet of the limo. The three APCs followed. Sani tried to suppress his butterfly stomach. Kona was a martyr to constipation – the CIA had told him that. That gave Sani levity. Kona was literally an anal retentive. But would the mercurial Kona be in bed? He was early to bed but might he be up – on the can? Sani would have no qualms about executing Kona as he was on Thomas Crapper’s invention.
The house was a mile from the gate. It was a dark grey stone two storey building in a Scottish baronial style. There was a portico at the front complete with Grecian columns. It had the Greek ratio for beauty 8;3. There were two large windows above the porticoed area, four to the left and two to the right. The door was not in the middle of the front elevation but the building was square. The men had all studied plans of the building assiduously.
The two sentries at the front of the presidential palace were puzzled to see the lights of four vehicles coming towards them in the middle of the night. They wore combats and they got their khalashnikovs at the ready.
”What is this?” said one.
”I don’t know. Gate should have phoned us to say someone was coming.” he guffawed.
There was a little ambient light.
”Come on the gate would not let them in. Looks like our own APCs.”
The limousine slowed down and halted under the portico and right in front of the main door. The chauffeur got out.
One of the sentries clocked the flag on the bonnet. ”Ah Nigerian ambassador. But at this hour?” The chauffeur nodded when he heard the sentry speak. The chauffeur went to the rear door and opened it.
A hefty middle aged black man in a charcoal grey pin striped suit and highly polished Church’s handmade shoes stepped out. It was Laertes who was feeling nervy.
”I am Dinmuhammad Bakr – Nigerian ambassador. I am sorry to disturb you at this house of the night but I have an urgent message for the president.” The soi-disant ambassador Laertes looked drawn and anxious. ” We were stopped by the army and they insisted on escorting us” said the ‘ambassador’ pointing to the APCs behind them.
”Why didn’t you call?” asked one sentry indignantly, gurning his face in suspicion. The man had cartoon dimples. The other soldier was younger but taller. It seemed like the older fellow was still showing him the ropes. The younger man was malodorous. Seemed like the older chap wanted to throw his weight around even with an ambassador.
”The message is so secret that I dare not communicate by phone. The wrong people might be listening. There is a plot afoot. I must warn President Kona in person”, said Laertes in faux ambassadorial tones. Laertes was worried – these men were a cohort of Kona’s best. They were nobodies fools. Would they not spot his anxiety ? But then that would tend to confirm his story – he was tipping Kona off about a coup and not launching one.
”Ok. We’ll take you in to see the officer of the watch. Maybe he decide you can wake up the president.”, he said in poor diction. Laertes’ charisma was working. These commies tended to operate on passing the buck. They feared responsibility. Everything would be passed up the chain of command.
Sani also got out of the car – he had been in the passenger seat. He too wore a Saville Row suit – his was blue pinstriped.
”My intelligence officer – he too must speak to the president” said the Laertes playing the diplomat.
”Ok, ok” said one of the sentries. They opened the wooden door with glass panels at the top. It lead into a marble hall with black and white chequered tiles. At the far end of the hall was a huge full length unduly flattering oil painting of Kona complete with presidential sash and the order of Lenin around his neck. Comical that this man called himself a socialist – thought Sani. It was framed by gilt wood. So conceited. An artist in America had benefitted from Kona’s patronage on that one. Despite being a communist Kona would not stint on quality. Soviet artists did not cut the mustard. Kona’s demand for oil paintings of his family was known to be prolific and blowing a whole in the budget.
Both soldiers stepped in ahead of the men they were guarding. The so-called ambassador Laertes winked at Sani. They both took out handguns with silencers and shoved them into the backs of the soldiers. Sani whispered, ”Don’t say a word. Just walk up the stairs.” Sani just hoped Kona was slumbering.
Both soldiers stiffened. They realised they had been conned. Sani moved his gun to press it into the occiputal prominence of his hostage. ”Just keep walking slowly. I am going to put this down at your back. Remember you mess around you die.” His hostage nodded silently and perspired rapidly. The man in front of Sani blushed. Sani was bemused by the reaction. To be terrified – that made sense. Imagine feeling embarrassed at a time like this. It was a defect in the man’s character that made him think of pride when he was about to die. That would be Sani Wiwa’s abiding memory of the night.
There was a staircase straight ahead of them – it spiralled broadly and two could easily walk abreast.
Sani and Laertes forced their men to walk on. As they turned the spiral of the staircase they saw two more sentries in combats and cradling khalashnikoves at the stop of the stairs outside a large white wooden door. Sani knew from intel that this was Kona’s bedroom.
The two sentries outside the bedroom looked suspicious. ”What is this?” one of them said almost aggressively.
Laertes decided to gabble the story lest the hostages warn their comrades.
”I am Ambassador Bakr of Nigeria. I have an urgent message for the president. I could not call. The president’s enemies might be listening. There is a conspiracy against him. I must speak to President Kona right now.”
The sentries outside the bedroom door lowered their guard a little. A plot against Kona was all too credible. Sani and his comrade were on the stairs only 5 metres from Kona’s door and those two sentries. Neither sentry had his gun pointed at the plotters.
Then Sani put his gun up beside the head of his hostage and aimed it at one of the sentries by Kona’s door.
Sani fired and missed. Fired again and his man just below the left collar bone. Sani fired again and hit the man in the stomach. The man groaned and made to raise his khalashnikov.
Laertes put his gun beside his hostages head and fired at the other sentry by Kona’s door. He missed his man. He fired again and again was wide. The sentry raised his khalashnikov but could not zero in on his target – he feared hitting his comrade, a human shield. Laertes fired again and hit his man an inch below the heart. Another bullet his the sentry in the forehead and he fell back against the wall before slumping down.
Sani had then aimed carefully at the sentry he had already wounded – he grouped two in the middle of the upper chest – his man fell backwards.
Laertes then put his gun to the back of his hostage’s head and dispatched him.
Sani too put his gun to his hostage’s temple and pulled the trigger the soldier fell dead – some of his blood splattering onto Sani.
”Thank God that’s done” said Sani. His pulse was racing. ”I had only one bullet left” he said pulling a clip of ammunition from his jacket pocket and hastily reloading.
”Don’t know how we pulled it off” said the Laertes- he too was breathing heavily, in disbelief that they had made it this far. He was emboldened by their success.
Just then Kona’s door was flung open. Out strode Kona in a white silk dressing gown. He was 6’3” and slim. He was an egghead in both senses. His bald dome had a little hair around the back and sides. Kona’s aspect was severe and melancholic. He sniffed with sinus problems. His metallic voice hissed with indignation.
”What in the hell is this ruckus?” demanded the president. He glared at Sani and the ambassador and then looked down to see the four corpses.
Kona blanched and turned on his heel to run back into his bedroom.
Sani and his Laertes sprang forward – they raced up the last three steps and the last couple of metres of corridor to the bedroom door.
Kona slammed the door behind him. They barged it open before Kona could lock it.
Kona ran back to the far side of the room. To the right was a king sized bed. In it was a naked young blonde. She sat up in bed and screamed for all she was worth.
Kona stood petrified. ”No. I can give you money” he beseeched them. Sani had finally reloaded and straightened his arm. He aimed his gun at Kona from 5 metres range and did not hesitate. He opened fire – four bullets all into Kona’s chest. Kona fell back smashing his head against the window behind him. His blood poured out onto the floorboards.
The fresh faced, pale skinned blonde with fabulous C cup tits remained transfixed but her shrieking did not abate. Sperm leaked from her nether regions. She was irresistibly attractive. Sani had a weakness for girls but knew this was no time to gawp at her. Her gossamer nightie lay on the floor by the bed.
Sani walked closer and stood right over Kona who was just about breathing. To make doubly sure Sani grasped his gun with both hands put two bullets into Kona’s forehead from point blank range. Blood spattered onto Sani’s taut hands.
”I want to shoot him too” said the Laertes grinning.
”Don’t waste ammo – we don’t have time for you to reload” said Sani.
As Sani said that they heard boots come running down the corridor. Sani’s men also piled into through the open front door.
Kona’s men had heard the yelling. A volley of khalashnikov fire was heard in the corridor outside. By the language being shouted Sani could tell the scrap was going his way.
Sani knew he and his pal could not outgun khalashnikov’s – that was why Sani’s backup was coming in to exfiltrate him. They would sit tight until Sani’s men came into the bedroom.
One of Kona’s soldiers rushed into the bedroom with his assault rifle poised – he fired a wild burst at Sani. Sani took two in the chest as he fired a missing shot.
Laertes then gave the soldier three bullets in the head. The man fell with a thud and his bright blood flooded the floor.
Sani fell to the floor and got up. ”God that hurts. Thank God for the bullet proof vest”. He noticed an extravagant army uniform of Kona’s complete with gold braid hanging in an open wardrobe. Not shutting the wardrobe door? What a disregard for conventional housekeeping.
There were more exchanges of fire in the front hall and on the stairs. They heard vehicles rushing
Just then Timms and Perkins burst into the room.
”Come on let’s go” shouted Perkins.
”We take the girl?” said Timms.
”Leave the girl” shouted Sani and they dashed out down the stairs. They raced through the hall. The young woman was left in the blood spattered bedroom was too terrified to cry.
Perkins and Timms picked up Kona’s corpse and carried it with them. As they raced out of the palace they overheard an officer stiffly rebuking his men somewhere. He would rather bawl at his soldiers then have them attack the assassins?
Two of Kona’s men lay dead and one more moaning with wounds. Sani tried to step over the rivulets of blood. He thought – why am I doing that? At a time like this to try to keep his shoes clean! Beside them lay Peter Birch – his face frozen. He had been shot several times in the throat. But still more of Kona’s harpies must be wounded and skulking off – Sani told himself.
Sani and the others did not have time to contemplate their loss. Perkins and Timms flung Kona’s body into the back of the APC. They piled into the APC.
”Did we get relatives?” said Sani to Perkins.
”Yes, Fell’s guys got Kona’s wife and daughter.”
”Excellent!” said Sani.
As soon as the firing had started Perkins had led 8 men in through the front door. They had to get Sani out and if possible take Mrs Kona and any of her children hostage. Mrs Kona and one of her daughters had been grabbed, handcuffed and bundled into an APC.
At that same moment one APC had sped around to the rear of the building. That was where the guard room was. Off duty sentries slept in a dormitory beside the rear door of the building. The APC’s machine gun had hosed down their windows. The glass all smashed the Sani’s men threw in a few hand grenades for good measure. Of the 20 men in the dormitory 5 died and 10 were wounded. Only 5 were unscathed.
The vehicles raced off towards the airport. The hearties were chuckling and whooping – flushed with victory. Sani was beginning to love the idea of being a man of action. From an aesthete to a buccaneer – quite a change he mused.
As the vehicles tore down the road Perkins asked Sani, ”who was that white chick in bed with Kona?”
”She is Geraldine Barker. Her father is the only English doctor practising here. He is a man of outstanding ability in treating tropical diseases. Geraldine was at boarding school in England. A couple of years ago she came back here for her school holidays. She was 17 and Kona took a shine to her. He told Dr Barker your daughter will be my mistress and you will be my personal physician on a handsome salary. And if you don’t accept I am going to prefer charges against you of medical negligence, molesting patients, prescribing the wrong drugs, embezzlement you name it.”
”So Barker accepted then.”
”Yeah he did. It was that or life in prison.”
”Sacrificed his own daughter.”
”Well Kona would have taken her anyway even if he put Dr Baker in gaol.”
”he treat her ok?”
”Yes he does. He does not beat her up or anything. They have a one year old daughter. Mrs Kona is not too pleased about it of course. I mean he does not flaunt Geraldine and but everyone knows she lives in the palace. Mrs Kona is still first lady at all state occasions. I think he is tired of her. The old girl’s ovaries have probably packed up. Since she has gone sterile I think Kona called it a day in the bedroom department – with his missus I mean.”
Laertes was looking glum. The finality of what he had done was sinking in. The death of Fell had been a setback but it could have been much worse. They could have been crushed by now.
Sani would not quite believe he had done it. Surely the part that required most finesse. And lived to tell the tale. If they had opened fire too soon Kona would have got away. If they had hesitated at the crucial moment he would have got away. Sani was a political man. He had pulled his weight militarily. It was not such a crazy undertaking after all. Might even succeed. Had succeeded. Kona was dead. Even if they were beaten Kona was not coming back. People told Sani that his advocacy knocked people down but now he had done something he thought impossible. Really knocked people down!
Never let people in uninvited – first rule of security. How had that gone unheeded wondered Philipps. This might be easier than he had imagined. Ought to get Kona’s body to a morgue before it starts to stink – he thought. In tropical heat that would be a few hours at best.