He stood on the other side of the Sutimoto Bank & Insurance Company. Hidden in the shadow of a doorway, he looked straight in front of him. Someone who accidentally saw him would think he took shelter in the dreary rain. His head bent the hood of his raincoat raised so that his face in the shadow of the rain cap was unrecognizable. Fortunately, he was inoculated and he took on a regular base his dose of medication. Given the fact he let himself check on ‘Radiology’ department a few times a year, he felt reasonably safe in the postwar air and against the hidden dangers that were inherent to this situation. There were people who got side-effects using these drugs and were less fortunate. They were bound to their house for the rest of their life because the vaccinations without the drugs gave a fifty percent more chance to get cancer. It was the combination of both the treatments that did the magic. Yes, those people were dependent of the goodness of someone else. Goodness, pfff! They were all sinners, who couldn’t distinguish the good from the evil. No, he had to control himself!
Indeed. Sereneness is the best advisor. There’ll be a moment you’ll be able to turn the flood of your revenge into anger. However, an Angel listens to his Master! Listen to me. We are many and you’ll sit down with us if you have completed your mission on earth.
The voices led him through the day and night. He felt safe but wasn’t stupid. That’s why he knew Stephen March was a threat. The voices had told him this so many times. Stephen March had to be scared off and when he didn’t listen he should disappear because he wasn’t one of the sinners. Stephen March wasn’t unclean, but he who won’t be counseled can’t be helped! He laughed up his sleeve when he imagined how Mister March would react in the bank.
He had patience and supposed the formalities to hand over the locker would take some time and he still cracked a Japanese walnut from the little bag he took out of his pocket. A hard nut to crack. He smiled at the thought of it. Stephen wouldn’t be a hard nut to crack. For starters, he would let him sing all the notes of the pain scale. A taste of what could follow if he didn’t appreciate the good advice.
‘Listen carefully! Follow the man to his apartment. There you can deliver him our message. Only there, not before he’s there. Follow our orders because you’re our Avenging Angel, guide of the souls. We take care of you, you take care of us.
I went with Ji Lang to Eagle Eye’s house that was situated at the agglomeration of Sanctuary. Besides his house, it was also the office of the import-export company ‘Afro-Art’ Eagle Eye and Ji Lang ran together. After telling my adventure about my nightly visitor, we had agreed to come here together. Jérome’s pied-a-terre was a spacious lot he had squatted and furnished in his own taste. Here I discovered the African roots of Jérome Shumbwa after we went to the third floor in a ruinous elevator. A moment I thought the cables that kept the elevator from falling would snap and we’ll end up smashed at the bottom. However, the device was stronger than I thought.
Gekko hadn’t come with us in spite of our convincing arguments. He only felt safe between his own four secured walls. He would stay in connection by means of the little ear device we all had received from him. Through a connection with Eagle Eye’s bionic eye, he had puzzled out in no time and with the consent of the owner, he also could follow us visually wherever we went. Against such high tech we, uninitiated ones, couldn’t compete. That’s why Gekko, in his own stubborn way, could be present.
When we left the elevator we came in a big space with here and there some pillars. These pillars were painted in colorful African motives and a big collection of wooden masks and illustrations were attached to these columns. On the ground, Eagle Eye had spread a variety of animal skins. Some of them came from extinct species. He told us that he hadn’t killed these animals, but that many of them had died or exterminated as a consequence of the Big War. For him, it was a tribute to a piece of natural African beauty that had been gone forever. Ji sat down on one of the soft pillows that lay on a beautiful zebra skin. Obviously, he felt at home here. I wandered around looking at everything. It was almost too much to name it all. A totally different culture that radiated southern warmth surrounded me and I fell for it. Eagle Eye elaborated with pleasure about the ornaments he had collected and gave his living space a typical look.
He pointed me at some of his last acquisitions, a Dogon Horseman statue from Mali, very rare. It was a horse mounted by two horsemen, but knowing that horses were very rare in Africa he was very proud he was able to add it to his collection. There were different masks that all carried a special name as there was a Punu-face mask with a hood on from Gabon and from the same country an old African Fang mask with a kind of feathers around the top of the ornament. In one of the corners of the living space, there was a big piece of wood and I asked Eagle Eye if this was also a mask or a sort of ceremonial dress. He told me with his usual gentleness and enthusiasm that it was a Baga Nimba shoulder mask from Guinea and it consisted out of one piece of wooden adornment that was carried on the shoulders. The woman it represented and the big breasts represented or symbolized the high fertility and was carried during harvest celebrations or even births. Since the Baga tribe was a little tribe in Guinea collectors considered it as very rare and he was gleaming with pride he owned it. He also had a little Dogon Monkey mask from Mali. It looked very funny with a little monkey on top of the mask, which obviously was eating something.
There were also some exceptional statues that were fencing off the living space and of which he was happy to give more explanation. Once Eagle Eye told about his roots, he obviously couldn’t stop. One of these statues was a Dogon-statue from Mali. It represented one the first ancestors of a group of people. It was a statue that mostly was put in an alcove and that was worshiped by the tribe with deep rooted respect. In the absence of an alcove, Jérome had put it on a wooden tripod to give it a special place. It represented two equal persons, cut out of wood and with both arms high in the air. My attention went to an artful wood cut statue that was a combination of an antelope, aardvark, and an armadillo. Jérome told with the necessary details and wide gestures that this statue was a symbol of the agrarian prosperity and that it came from the Bambara tribe from Mali. There it was called a Chiwara.
Eagle Eye was a colorful person. We all knew that, but now we also noticed it in his collection of artworks and in the colors he had used in his living space. Even those weren’t picked by accident. ‘For example in Congo,’ he explained, ‘a mask was kifwebe. This term was pointing to the spirit it represented. Depending on the region, it was provided with white or black stripes. The mask incorporated the supernatural power. The kifwebe-communities used these masks to ban disasters and threats. They were used together with a long woven sort of costume and a big beard made of raffia that was adapted.
Masks, colors, and costumes, everything had a symbolic value for the African tribes. The colors of the masks were also of great importance. The use of white colors pointed at positive powers like the moon and the light, purity and peace. Red, on the contrary, could be associated with the color of blood and fire, strength, and courage but also with danger and evil.
Fortunately for us, white and other colors as yellow, ochre and other shades of brown dominated above the red. There were too many to name them all. I discovered with every step I made something new and I began to look a whole different way at the fond of laughing and somehow flamboyant appearance of Eagle Eye. I smiled secretly about my thoughts.
Eagle Eye told us that Ji took care of the contacts in their little company to which they could sell their African Art at the right price. Himself, he had relations in many African countries where he could fetch his merchandise. The most beautiful and rare pieces he kept for himself. We were all witness of his good taste.
‘How about our investigation, Ji,’ I asked, despite the fact that I wanted to hear still more about the art objects of Eagle Eye’s ancestors. Another time, maybe? We were all impressed by the difference in culture, despite the fact we felt very positive about it. Africa was a warm region, where the inhabitants if they looked a bit like Jérome Shumbwa were as heartwarming as their lifestyle and their culture.
‘Well, yes, we didn’t pick up much from the comments or reactions from the family of Myo and Dakai. The story keeps the same. The victim or victims have been abducted, in one or another way during this abduction, during their transportation they have been sedated and eventually found back in different pieces at the place they were kidnapped,’ Ji Lang explained. He was disappointed, Ji had expected more of it looking at the expression of his face.
‘Myo and Dakai, they had a large cultural baggage,’ he elaborated, ‘they weren’t naughty boys from a gang. They were Akai too, and if the murderer really had it in for the Akai, then I don’t know what he doesn’t like about the doctrine of the peaceful Akai. Last year, Myo and Dakai had won a voyage to the Old World. They had visited during a whole month the most important cities of the Old World on the expenses of a fraternal organization. They were accompanied by a government functionary who watched that everything went well and that the interest of the Old World weren’t violated at any time. Myo and Dakai told their family the man was okay, after all. He went with them to keep up appearances but enjoyed as well of the voyage. It was an event they talked about at every opportunity.’
He talked with a hoarse voice, the sadness written in his eyes and she saw a similar glance in the face of Eagle Eye. Why this all happened, it escaped us at every time. Somewhere deep in my head, something kept hanging, but I couldn’t catch it. If it was important or not, with the best will in the world, I couldn’t say what stood out in these cases. I supposed it would float to the surface in due time. However, time was something precious and in this view, it was important to find a good link to the murderer as soon as possible. Every victim was one too many.
‘Unfortunately the delegation with Stephen March has left,’ I announced. ‘I would have liked talking a bit with Stephen March about his half-sister Suzy Chang. Maybe he knew other elements about the cases we don’t know about. He’s an influential person in both Worlds and he possibly knows something out of his first-hand basis to make our information more complete.’ With a frustrated gesture, I went with my hand through my hair. ‘Just something people from the West would do, run and hide when things are tough.’ Maybe that’s wasn’t fair to say, I instantly thought, Stephen March also had lost someone. I felt a blush of shame on my face. Yes, you would lose your temper for less and say the wrong words.
A loud voice in my left ear startled me. ‘Gekko, a bit softer please,’ I shouted, ‘can you adjust the volume, I now it has become something of a dialogue of the deaf, but that doesn’t mean you have to blast our inner ear. ‘Okay, that’s better,’ I added. Gekko probably had adjusted some of the settings and his voice was now less noisy.
‘My dear Yu, you just ask the wrong questions,’ he started. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
‘Listen here, my dear Gerekko,’ using his official name to indicate I was losing my patience. ‘Onegai, please, if you have to say something, say it without accusations or misplaced arrogance, we all know we can’t compete with your master brain and your genius, so come up, what do you know?’
‘Alright, alright, Yu. Sumimasen, sorry! What I mean with the wrong question is the following thing, you’ve told me that you asked if the Western delegation had left and that’s a fact. But Stephen March hasn’t left together with them. He has stayed behind and I think for the same reason as we have created our little group.’
I was so astonished I almost sat down on the Dogon-statue from Mali that was exhibited on the tripod. A cry from Eagle Eye could just prevent I pushed that piece. ‘What do you mean, how you know…?’ I heard Gekko on the background amusingly smiling. ‘Okay, Gekko, do I have to pull out of your mouth or do you want to tell it voluntarily’. My patience really was exhausted.
‘As a precaution, I had,’ he told me in my ear,’ put a little search on the person Stephen March as I did on certain other persons, hmm, from the Security Service for example. Every person has a certain face pattern. When those persons move, then certain data banks and camera’s give me a sign that the person in question leaves their house or that, for example, a certain Stephen March left his apartment, he’s still paying for, and at this moment visits the Sutimoto Bank & Insurance Company. I’ve tried to hack the intranet of the Bank, but that’s impossible on such short notice.’
That was something positive. I have to pay a visit to this Westerner from the Old World. ‘Thanks, Gekko, I don’t have to say it, but you’re the best’. I heard a confirming sniffing in my left ear.
Stephen gazed at the content of the box. A red video stick laid lonely and alone on the inside of the box. What did this mean? Had Suzy left him a simple video stick? He had rather expected specific documents or something concrete with clues to her sister of maybe in the best case scenario a lead to the murderer. Stephen felt somewhat disappointed, but he took the stick out of the box at putting it in his inside pocket. He just held the box upside down for a moment to be sure he hadn’t missed something, poked with half his arm in the box to feel if there weren’t things attached on the inside. All in vain. That stick was the only clue Suzy had left him. He closed the locker again and put his hand on the sculpture called ‘Security’ in the tokonoma. It only took a few minutes before Mister Ayumu entered the room greeting and Stephen gave him the box back, thanked him and left the bank with mixed feeling about the thing Suzy had left him.
There he was! Obviously, judging by the look on his face, Mister March wasn’t happy at all. You didn’t find what you expected, he thought while he withdrew still more into the doorway? He waited still a moment and after that, he followed Stephen March on the other side of the street, looking for it that he stayed at a safe distance. When Stephen called a taxibot at the yellow standard, he also called his ride touching a number code on his touchpad. A mouse gray autobot came from around the corner and after he had entered and scanned an image of Stephen’s taxibot, the setting trail modus did the rest. He leaned back in his seat with an opinionated smile and went in pursuit of his prey.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere