Welcome to Kaduna State. Don't mind the mosquitoes.
Far from Kaduna, the state capital, a house sits, in the center of the jungle. In many ways, it's like a mausoleum. In others, it's like a palace. A lot of officials live here, and a lot of them hate the government, the currency, and the rich.
Don't let the fancy accommodations fool you. None of this was personally financed. No one would believe it, if they knew who did.
Here, water features flow through paradise gardens. Cichlids swim in some of them. The doorways, and some of the windows, are horseshoe-arched. Some of the towers are topped with green and/or gold onion domes.
Here and there, in the trees outside the property lines, a green mamba slithers. They're very venomous.
Up a gentle slope of cement steps, a spy ascends. He's in the guise of an envoy...as he usually is, when he works. At least he's not dressed as a Red Crescent worker. THAT would be a violation of international law.
Here and there near his oxfords, a lacewing fly lands on an anthill. At that size, they hardly intimidate Mikhail.
At an archway, guards greet him. They stop him, and check his documentation.
They give him an escort, through the halls. The halls are dark and barrel-vaulted. At least the lighting is tungsten-filamented; Mikhail half-expected torches.
There are mosaics, tiled into the walls. Mikhail gets brief chances to glance at some of them. There's one of a group of crocodiles, basking beneath the surface as a helpless little dik-dik gets a drink within their reach. There's one of an elephant shrew scurrying among a bunch of black mamba snakes, lying in wait, concealed from plain sight...
Mikhail shudders. But then, he'd never expect his job to be without its booby traps...
He's brought into a stepped-welled ring-shaped room. The guards take him down the steps, and leave him in the room's center.
Mikhail's beneath a rotunda. The rotunda's got Christian, Muslim, and black supremacist symbols in it. Mikhail shudders. He's white...and if he has a single Jewish ancestor, he doesn't know about them.
A very long desk surrounds the top tier of the stepped well. Before each chair that's at it, a nameplate sits.
In the next fifteen minutes, most of the chairs get manned by someone who lives here. Most are female, but a few are male.
Michal Shimshelewitz, the chairwoman, commences the exchange. She may be black...but she can't help but remind Mikhail of a woman he's known, on another job. Also, her name is Michal, which sounds a lot like Mikhail. As much as Mikhail hates to admit it, he thinks he might be falling for Ms. Shimshelewitz…
To start off, Mikhail presents some diamonds. Ms. Shimshelewitz smiles down upon them, and presents some ivory; some of her eunuchs bring it in.
They set the ivory down next to Mikhail. Before making the swap, they search him. Mikhail doesn't get body-inspected by eunuchs very often. It's not a bad experience...but he also wouldn't pay to have it done to him for fun.
Just beneath the rotunda, and linsang stalks into view. She narrows her cat-like eyes, and surveys the exchange...
They take the diamonds and leave the ivory. Mikhail thanks them, and offers to see himself out.
Alas, Ms. Shimshelewitz is more than hard at work admiring Mikhail...semi-lustfully. She offers to have him quartered, at this complex, for the night.
Mikhail smiles, and accepts. He isn't sure why this is happening...but he'd love to see it unfold, if it's going where he hopes.
Abroad, through the rotunda, the sun shines through a black supremacist symbol. It seems to be spotlighting little Mikhail...