Click here to read the previous chapter; Behind Her Smile – Chapter One, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Two, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Three, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Four, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Five, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Six, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Seven, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Eight, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Nine, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Ten
*On the other side of campus*
Leo paced his hostel room furiously and cussed several times with such venom that if words could kill, someone would be dead by now.
“Just calm down, this could mean nothing. It’s not like he’s trying to reclaim his title or position.”
“And what if he does?”
“Then you simply take him out of the picture.”
“I’ve come too far to let this slip right out of my hands.” Leo shook his head vehemently. “Since back in my secondary school days. I did all that was required and went through with every task for the initiation. I even-“
He shut his eyes as if he wanted to wipe away a bad memory. Victor looked on with curiosity, waiting for him to complete his sentence.
“Does this have anything to do with that girl?”
“Which girl?” Leo asked sharply.
“You know the one, Precious.”
“I thought we agreed never to speak about that again? What’s done is done.”
“Not when it seems that you regret it.”
“Don’t get me wrong, okay?” Leo turned to him. “I don’t regret anything and if I had a chance to go back in time, I’d do it again.”
Just then Leo’s phone rang and he checked the caller ID to see that it was Seyi calling him. Ever since their previous encounter a few days ago, he hadn’t bothered to contact her. She had come up with all sorts of reasons to justify his actions including the fact that exams were coming up soon even though she knew he wasn’t the studious type.
“What do you want, Seyi?” Leo answered, without bothering with a greeting.
Victor’s ears immediately became tuned to the conversation once he heard her name mentioned. Since the time at the restaurant, they’d had no other opportunity to see each other. She always had an excuse to avoid their meetings and he was quickly getting impatient. Seyi had to make up her mind. It was either him or Leo. She had to pick one.
“Listen, I’m busy, that would be another time.”
Victor’s fists clenched by his sides to restrain the anger he felt. It was clear to him that Seyi was repeating the same thing she did years ago. She hadn’t changed at all.
“I said if I need you, I’ll call you, don’t make me angry.”
He ended the call and tossed his phone unto the bed.
“That girl just doesn’t know when to back down.”
“Don’t you think you should treat her better?” The words escaped Victor’s lips before he could reel them back in.
“What was that?” Leo asked slowly.
Victor mentally decided on whether it was wise to retreat or proceed.
“All I’m saying is that she’s been with you for quite some time now.”
“So what?” Leo shrugged.
It wasn’t the first time Victor wished girls would see Leo for who he truly was and not the image he presented to them in the first instance.
“You know what, forget it.”
Leo watched him suspiciously and said nothing.
“I’ve got to go now,” Victor said as he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another.
“Go ahead,” Leo said in a tone that didn’t sound reassuring at all.
Victor immediately left the room without a backward glance. As soon as he was gone, Leo picked up his phone and dialed a number.
“T.J, I need you to do something for me.”
“Keep an eye on Victor, let me know his whereabouts, who he talks to, what he’s doing and when he’s doing it. Don’t leave out any detail.”
“Sure thing boss.”
“Good, you’ll get a reward if you do the job well.”
“I’m on it.”
Leo had taught himself to trust no one and he’d survived for this long as the leader of Orion. If Victor had anything up his sleeves, Leo planned to be one step ahead of him always.
“I’m afraid he’s on to us.”
Victor’s solemn words jolted Seyi off his lap and she turned to look at him with her eyes full of fear. They’d planned a romantic getaway for just the two of them in a hotel that Victor promised Leo knew nothing about.
“How do you mean?” She trembled as she spoke and not even his reassuring embrace could help her.
“I noticed I was being followed two days ago.”
“And you didn’t say anything about it until now?” She yelled.
“Calm down okay, what would you have done about it anyway?”
“Well, we could’ve been more careful.” She snapped at him.
“Can you just stop raising your voice at me?”
“This was all a big mistake,” She muttered, running her hands through her braids in frustration.
Victor’s whole demeanor changed.
“What did you say?”
“You heard me, this was a mistake.”
“Do you think you’re the only one risking something here?” Victor got up and faced her directly. His intimidating height forced her to take a step back. “I’m risking a lot for you Seyi, even my life and not once have you ever shown any form of gratitude. All you’re obsessed with is Leo.”
“Don’t tell me we’re going back to this again. You’ve always been an insecure brat. Even when we were much younger. You used to hang around him like you hoped his coolness would rub off on you.”
Victor froze like he couldn’t believe his ears. The urge to raise his fist against her was strong but he held himself back. He was done.
“We’re done here.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m tired of you Seyi.”
“You can’t say that.”
“I just did.”
He turned his back on her, grabbed his shirt and put it on.
“By the time I get back, I don’t want to see you anywhere near this place. If you like yourself be long gone by the time I get back.”
“Victor!” Seyi yelled as he walked away from her. “Victor, answer me!”
But the only response she got was the sound of the door slamming shut.
Less than an hour later, there was a knock on the door. Seyi’s heart threatened to escape her chest. She’d never seen Victor so enraged before, maybe when other people were involved but certainly not her. She didn’t know whether she should try to talk to him again or she should get out. At times, she realised she forgot one important detail about him and that was his tendency to be violent. She’d seen him in action, fighting side-by-side with Leo during cult clashes back in the day. Or even in confrontations that sprang up without warning. But never had he shown her his deadly side, not until today. He had come so close to hitting her and she knew it, she saw the look in his eyes.
The knock came a second time.
“Who is it?” She asked nervously.
There was no way Victor would knock. He had his own key to the hotel room.
She breathed in relief, not realising that she’d been holding her breath for a while now. She peeked through the peephole of the door and unlocked it.
“I ordered for food ages ago, why is it just coming now-”
Before she could finish her sentence, she was grabbed in a chokehold from behind. Her hands shot to her neck and her long fingernails scratched desperately at the cords around her neck. She tried to scream for help but there wasn’t enough breath left in her. A dark cloth was placed over her nose and mouth to block her airways and her eyes slowly drifted shut. Her body became slack and she didn’t resist anymore as she lost consciousness. Moments later when he was sure she wouldn’t get up anytime soon, he made a phone call.
“I found them, boss. I have the girl but Victor isn’t here.”
“He must be nearby. Find him.”
“What do I do with the girl?” He asked.
“Whatever you wish, she’s of no use to me anymore.”
When the call ended, he grinned to himself and looked down at the nearly lifeless body on the floor. Well, he could always have his fun with her. He brought out a silver jackknife from the leather case he always carried about with him and sat down beside her.
“Where shall I start from?” He muttered to himself. “The fingers or the toes?”
Later that day, as Victor made his way back to the hotel room, he felt he might have been too harsh on Seyi. Sure, she had said some hurtful words but he still loved her even though he couldn’t explain why. He’d never been able to understand why he withstood all her insults and unfair treatment. How he had stood back and watched as she became Leo’s toy and ran to do his bidding. He couldn’t understand why she’d never given him a chance and even when she did, she was still two-timing him. He sighed bitterly when he realised Leo would always be better than him in Seyi’s eyes. But this time around, he had to let go of her. He knew it was the only way. If it was Leo she wanted, she could have him.
As soon as he opened the door, he knew something was wrong. The back of his neck tingled where his amulet was and he felt the urge to get out of the room. He gasped and dropped to the floor when he saw the lifeless body on the floor before him. Several fingers and toes were missing and her face was carved into pieces beyond recognition. Blood soaked her clothes and pooled around her body.
Seyi was dead. And he knew whoever did it, meant it as a message.
His blood boiled in his veins and his breath came in rapid puffs. No one other than Leo could’ve done this. But this was taking things too far. She didn’t have to die for this. He grabbed the nearest object and threw it against the wall as he screamed in pain and grief.
Leo would pay.
Two days later, Leo’s phone rang and he untangled himself from the girl that had managed to wrap herself around him.
“What is it?” He answered gruffly.
“T.J is dead.”
“What!” He sat up so quickly it threw her off balance and nearly sent her crashing to the floor.
“His body was found yesterday. Nobody knows who did it.”
Leo was silent for a moment and when he spoke, his voice was solemn.
“I have an idea… leave it to me.”
He turned to the girl beside him and threw her a wad of cash from his bedside drawer.
She took it without a word of complaint and left the room quietly.
Leo stared into space as a plan formed in his head.
So, Victor decided to grow wings, huh? He muttered to himself. All because of a woman. Well, he would get what comes his way.
(In the female hostel on campus.)
The girls and I had just returned from visiting Ada at the hospital and we were all in a sober mood. Zach had already recovered and he was by her side nearly every day but it was difficult for me to find him blameless in this situation. Nafisa didn’t bother to hide her irritation when she saw him at the hospital and made it clear that it would’ve been better if he just stayed away from her.
Zach was solemn throughout and had apologised but it couldn’t change the fact that he was a dreaded cultist whose relationship with Ada had only put her in danger.
Anna’s phone rang and she stepped away from us to answer it. When she returned, she announced that it was her cousin that called.
“Isaac?” I asked without thinking.
“The one and only.” She rolled her eyes.
“Why do I get the feeling that you don’t like him very much?”
She and Nafisa exchanged a glance that was full of meaning. There was some history I wasn’t aware of.
“I told you he used to be a student here before, right?”
“Well, he was two years ahead of me but got involved in some stuff and had to leave for his own safety.”
“What do you mean?”
She seemed uncomfortable talking about it and despite my curiosity, I wasn’t sure whether to push for more information or retreat.
“My cousin Isaac, was once a cultist. In fact, he was the former leader of Orion.”
Shock jolted through me like a lightning bolt. It caused me to freeze and my mind went blank. For some reason, my heart sank in disappointment and I refused to believe that what Anna said was true but there was no reason for her to lie.
“How did that happen?”
She sighed and shook her head.
“It’s a long story that I cannot tell. You need to hear it directly from him if he’s willing to tell you.”
“But, I can’t just ask him. I barely know him.”
She raised an eyebrow and the look in her eyes became slightly teasing.
“Somehow, I think he’ll tell you if you ask him.”
I was left wondering what her words were meant to imply.
That weekend, Isaac visited again. I didn’t understand why I was a nervous wreck around him but I tried to make myself as scarce as possible. That was until I returned to the hostel in what I thought was stealth mode only to find him sitting in front of the entrance gate.
“Precious, I was waiting for you.” It was the first thing he said. He stood up and smiled as he walked closer to where I stood.
“I wanted to see you,” He said. “I hope you don’t mind?”
“Not at all.”
“Can we just take a walk?”
I looked around and noticed that many students were around. Girls cast us curious glances and some paid more attention to the guy standing before me. I admit he was a sight to behold.
“Um sure.” I nodded.
We walked towards a tall tree that had an unoccupied bench below it and sat down. I waited for him to speak first.
“Why’re you so withdrawn around me?” His voice was low and I nearly strained to hear. “Is there something about me that puts you off?”
“I…” I wasn’t quite sure what to say.
His eyes looked troubled as he waited for my reply.
“I heard you used to be a student here.” I decided to go with a different tactic.
“Oh, news gets around easily.” He chuckled but it was without humour.
“I don’t mean to pry, sorry.”
“No, it’s alright. I’m sure you’ve heard different versions of the story by now.”
“Actually, just one. But I’d like to hear your version if you don’t mind.”
“I’ll tell you all you need to know, just ask.”
I took a deep breath and asked the first question.
“Is it true that you’re a cultist?”
“But can you truly be free from it?”
He was silent.
“I haven’t been back there in a long time and I don’t plan to go back anytime soon,” He said. “I nearly died twice in one day. I realised the value of my life even if I don’t have much to live for. But now I believe I do.”
“I met some people who helped me see things in a different way. It took a while but I eventually began to understand that life was more than what I saw.” He smiled sadly. “I wasn’t raised the way Anna was. Sometimes my cousin and I don’t agree on most things because we don’t think the same way. Where she thinks negotiation is the best approach, I’d rather take it by violence. I had a rough childhood, that is if I really had a childhood at all. I didn’t get to play like other kids and I worked, odd jobs here and there for miserly amounts of cash, anything to get by.”
“What about your parents?” I asked.
“They never got married and I was the bastard child who nobody wanted so by the age of four, I learned to fend for myself. I met older boys who showed me a few tricks and I was excellent at picking pockets.”
He looked up at the sky and that was when I noticed that it was getting darker. A cool breeze blew and rustled the leaves of the tree we sat under. A wilted leaf fell unto my shoulder but before I could react, he picked it up and studied it.
“You see, I was like this leaf. Wilted and useless, even at such a young age, I felt I was inferior in every way to my peers. I was street-smart, not book-smart and as soon as I realised this, I used it to my advantage.”
“How did you join Orion?”
“Years before, when I was about 16 or 17, I was recommended to a man who I didn’t know back then was a prominent member of Orion. He said he saw potential in me and had a quick and easy way for me to earn some cash with my talents. I was quick on my feet and light with my hands, excellent skills for the job, he said. And so I jumped in, carrying out minor tasks for him until he asked for my loyalty and since I had no better option, I chose to remain loyal by joining Orion. You see most members have been there since they were much younger and only advance in rank when they show outstanding skills. I was one of those who fit the shoes for the successive Capon.”
Capon… the words rang a bell in my head and the image of the signature along
“Do you by any chance know what this means?”
I brought out my phone and found the picture I took in the library.
“Where did you get this?” He frowned.
“It was in the library.”
“You’ve been researching on Orion?” He frowned.
“What’s the big deal about it?” I remembered Kolade’s reaction too.
“Does anyone know about this?”
“Just one person.”
“Like I said, what’s the big deal about it?”
“Just tell me who.” He clenched his jaw as if he was trying to contain himself.
“You wouldn’t even know him, his name is Kolade.” I shivered slightly as the temperature dropped significantly. The sun had already set by now and it was quickly plunging us into darkness.
“You should go inside, it’s getting late.”
We stood up from the bench and I let him escort me to the entrance of the entrance gate.
“Precious, wait please.”
I raised an eyebrow in curiosity as I waited for him to speak.
“Despite what you now know about me, can you please put this aside and get to know me as a person?”
I hesitated for a moment and I saw the light dim in his eyes before it was replaced by a mask that was void of emotion. He bid me good night and made me promise him that I’d be more careful but he didn’t make any more reference to his question. Later that night as I lay in bed, I was conflicted deep within. Isaac had proved to be decent so far but could I overlook the glaring detail of his past and how sure was I that it wouldn’t come back to haunt him? Or worse, me?
To Be Continued…