The President Must Not Die!

0

 WRITERS’ WORLD 

By Bisi Daniels; bisi.daniels@thisdaylive.com; Blog: www.bisidaniels.com, 08050220700

For refusing to do a third term after the expiration of 2 terms, an international cabal made up of close aides and relations of the President of Mubonde, an African country, as well as foreigners masquerading as lobbyists and other people of vested interest are about to poison him in New York for their man to take over. But Peter Abel, wanted by the FBI, will not allow them in this nail-biting scene in the last excerpt from the novel “The False Truth.”

Posing as Mubondian businessman Johnson and a foreign business partner, heavily disguised Abel and his associate, Lulow, were received by the economic attaché. Abel spoke with a heavy African-American accent.

“You see, the whole idea is for Mubondians to invest in their country, as a mark of confidence in their own economy,” Solubu, the attaché argued. “Foreign investors are emboldened by that to invest in Mubonde.”

“Yea, I gat your point,” Abel said, “I really desire to return home to enjoy the new prosperous Mubonde of President Suweri.”

“Mubonde of all Mubondians and the friends of Mubonde, like our friend here,” Solubu looked up at Lulow.

“Minerals are your big attraction, but we are going into tourism big time,” Lulow said.

Solubu had been so impressed by his visitors that he invited them to the reception in honour of Suweri. As they returned to the car, Lulow asked anxiously, “what time does the reception begin?”

“Seven-thirty,” Abel replied, “but I plan to arrive fashionably late.”

Lulow didn’t appear comfortable with that plan—or the extended lack thereof. “I understand your concern for the president, Peter, but you will be taking a big risk. The split second they see through your disguise, they will happily hand you over to the FBI before Suweri even realizes you are wearing a false moustache.  In case you’ve forgotten, you are still wanted for murder in America.”

Abel gave Lulow a deliberate nod. “I haven’t forgotten anything, and trust me when I say it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.

The Reception

The reception for President Robert Suweri was held at the Metropolitan Hall, in the three-storey marble building shaped like a diamond. Dignitaries from the US Diplomatic Corps, Heads of State from 15 African countries, and key United Nations officials had gathered on the day Suweri addressed the General Assembly, the leading light of African democracy. Indeed, the party was held at the request of the African Union.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come inside?” Abel teased.

“I don’t have a tux,” Lulow replied. “I’m sure there’s a dress code that says no blue jeans or sneakers.”

Abel managed to walk into the reception area with no questions from the security personnel. So much for threat assessment, he remarked. He was sure that in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil, everyone would have to show identification and be subjected to a full body frisking. As it turned out, the only security measure that Abel encountered was the metal detector he passed through at the main entrance, upon showing his ID as a Mubondian businessman and the IV he had received at the Embassy.

The party was in full swing with cocktails served at the pre-function area in the hall. The women’s dresses were elegant and ornate, reminiscent of a social register cotillion. Most of the men wore black tuxedos with bow ties and cummerbunds. Some of the younger attendees wore upscale attire with a slightly edgier tone.

No trouble fitting in

Abel had no trouble fitting in. He just wished he had an escort. There were very few singles in the room. Most of the guests were accompanied by spouses or significant others. Abel noticed quite a few older gentlemen who appeared to have brazenly brought their mistresses. Still, he looked the part, and his short career as a member of the Suweri administration had taught him how to move about in powerful political circles.

Abel approached the bar and ordered a club soda. He certainly would have preferred something stronger, but he needed to remain extremely alert. His life and the life of his country’s president hung in the balance. It was necessary for him to prove his case against the cabal to survive.

He scanned the crowd in search of familiar faces. He found President Suweri at the centre of the festivities, happily holding court with the many admiring guests. The First Lady proudly took her place at his side. Abel grimaced at the sight of her phoney smile. She held her husband’s arm and accepted the showering of compliments and praise the guests were so generously offering.

With his drink in hand, Abel circled the outer edges of the crowd. He didn’t want to be in the middle, nor did he want to be on the outside. Both circumstances would call attention to him, and he had to remain undetected. He heard the buzz of forced laughter and a few loud jubilant voices, and then turned to see Tommy Salmon entertaining a group of his own. The man was so narcissistic that he couldn’t refrain from stealing the spotlight away from the president.

Then, on the outside of Salmon’s circle, Abel noticed Songa. He was dressed as the honoured guest he presumed himself to be.  He watched as Songa exchanged glances with Salmon and left to join the president and his wife.  Abel was relieved. Having Songa mix with the crowd was dangerous; Songa was a smart man. He would definitely see through Abel’s disguise upon close examination.

Abel was also mindful of the Secret Service agents. His breathing quickened as he looked around. It was not obvious who would be delivering the deathblow to the president, or whether it was planned for another function.  It was important to know who was likely to open the door—either literally or figuratively—for the assassin.

Nearly twenty minutes later, the door was finally opened—in a figurative sense. Maintaining a low profile, Abel noticed Songa leave the president’s side and walk across the room. A moment later, Salmon excused himself from his conversation and nonchalantly approached him, working hard to make it appear coincidental. When he reached Songa, he acted like he was delighted to see him—as if he hadn’t spoken to him in ages. Songa returned the happy greeting and extended his hand.

Abel couldn’t hear their conversation over the din of all the revellers. However, he watched with fascination as Songa and Salmon tried a little too hard to convince onlookers how happy they were to be together that evening. Abel would not know how he smiled at that crucial moment, but he did. He noticed that their handshake lasted a little too long, and soon his gazed was focused on their palms grasping each other. When they finally released, it was clear that Songa was hiding something in his small hand.

The poison

This must be it, Abel thought. His eyes followed Songa as he made his way across the room to the president’s side. Moments later, as President Suweri was finishing his drink, Songa headed to the bar.

Instinctively, Abel moved closer to the men. He was careful not to get close enough to call attention to himself or cause anyone alarm. The bartender gladly mixed up two cocktails for Songa. He systematically pushed one glass a few inches to the side, and then placed an extra swizzle stick in the other.

Abel took another step closer—close enough to see Songa drop something into the glass with the two swizzle sticks. Songa picked up both glasses and walked back toward the president.

The muscles in Abel’s hand twitched. He swallowed hard, licked his lips and hastily followed; the time for inconspicuousness was long gone.

Songa carefully handed Suweri the glass with the two swizzle sticks. The president nodded his appreciation, but before he could take a sip, Peter Abel made his move.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” He stepped into the president’s circle and removed his wig, beard and moustache. “It’s so nice to see all of you here to honour our beloved President Suweri.”

The president’s mouth dropped open, but no words came out. The First Lady appeared equally shocked, but she remained speechless. Songa looked transfixed. He grunted noisily. 

“My name is Peter Abel,” he continued. “I know many of you have heard some stories about me lately, but I can assure you that none of them is true—especially the one that claims I am dead. Robert Suweri is a brave, honest and brilliant man, and I was honoured to have had the opportunity to serve in his administration.”

The President stopped

Abel reached over and gently took the glass from the president’s hand. He then reached over and took Songa’s glass as well. Songa was trembling uncontrollably at this point. Abel proudly raised both glasses. “Since President Suweri’s illustrious term in office is quickly nearing its end, I would like to propose another toast to his decency, determination and steadfast service to the people of Mubonde. This is one president that has made Africa proud!”

The president still didn’t know how to respond. He glanced blindly across the room. The rest of the crowd, most of whom were unfamiliar with the Peter Abel saga, happily raised their glasses in tribute. Abel, in turn, handed the glass with the single swizzle stick to the president and the one containing two sticks to Songa.

Songa looked horrified as he held the glass in his trembling hand. Although still nervous and confused, the president took a sip from his glass and smiled for the crowd. The First Lady followed her husband’s lead clumsily, spilling the drink over her expensive, white gown.

The President saved

“Is there a problem, Security Officer Songa?” Abel inquired.

“Ah…no,” he stammered.

“Then please have a drink to toast our dear president.”

Songa stood frozen.

“Unless, of course, you’re afraid it might kill you,” Abel shouted.

Some of the revellers assumed the comment was a joke and laughed. However, the expression on Songa’s face made most of the guests uncomfortable.

“What did you put in that drink, Songa?” Abel shouted. “Thallium? Polonium? So you are also involved in the theft of substances from Soviet nuclear facilities. Will you tell us, or should we just have the American laboratories study it?”

Abel quickly took the glass from the Songa and walked over to one of the Secret Service agents. “Sir, I believe this beverage is tainted. Please have it analysed—and whatever you do, don’t drink any of it. If it’s polonium, we’re all at risk.”

In one swift movement, the Secret Service agents threw a cordoned off the spot Suweri and his wife stood and spirited them away through a blind exit Abel had not noticed. In the same brisk manner Songa was whisked away by another group of agents. Relieved, Abel was hurrying away, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. “Sorry, Mr. Abel, you have to come with us to our office.”

He said nothing as two hunky men led him away.

Pix: WRITERS’ WORLD PIX.jpg