They called him Dexter. Just that. What else do you call a man known for his perfect splendor and insurmountable ambitious accolades except his given name? Dexter.
He never spoke of his father, and those who could did so in whispers. And for that they forgave him for having no last name. In fact, it was a gift born of the cruel circumstances surrounding his birth. Society owed it to him to expect no other name than the one he chose for himself. Dexter.
“I feel like a teenager waiting for her prom date, ” Annabel Macha said to whoever was on the other end of the listening device in her ear. She gave her reflection in the huge mirror covering the center of the wall another intense examination.
“Anna, focus! ” A girlish voice admonished her.
Snickering, Annabel turned towards the adjacent wall where an unapologetically fake Van Gogh painting hang. One of the subject’s eyes held the lens through which the girl sqeaking in her ear could see into her world. Despite the distasteful art, Annabel had developed a liking to Hotel Antelia. Manu’ s minions had gone to great lengths to secure accommodations for her at what was now the most happening élite hôtel in the région.
Hotel Antelia was only two weeks old, but the people who had gotten her the best suite there had booked it well in advance. They knew there would be such a party on that day and set into motion events that would get them closer to their goal. As far as they were concerned, she was just a pawn, something to use and then discard. For an organization known to never leave loose ends, Annabel understood in no uncertain terms where her fate lay with them.
“You know Mainza, for a nineteen-year-old, you sure know how to raise your voice at your elders.”
Mainza snickered into her palm, swinging in her comfortable seat in front of six monitors that showed footage of the activities going on at the hotel. Behind her, at the far back of the room was her aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs Kapaso, sitting on a pale blue three-seater leather couch that had seen better days and had become their home from the moment Annabel set out on the day’s mission. Both their gazes were religiously locked on the monitor in front of them. The man appeared pleased by what he was seeing, whereas his wife looked like she had swallowed four pregnant frogs. Many people that knew Betty Nambela Kapaso could have sworn that that was her natural disposition.
Infamouy known simply as Manu, sixty-one-year-old Emmanuel Kapaso was the supposed head of the Furian Syndicate, an underground agency that controlled almost all the political figures in the country, including the president. However, those who knew the Kapasos well knew it was the wife who wore the pants in the relationship. A ruthless and astute businesswoman, Betty had turned the small fortune she had inherited from her grandmother at the age of sixteen into a huge business empire.
There were no bounds to the control the Syndicate had over the powerful and influential. The citizens naively thought themselves liberated beings in a democratic state, led by leaders they chose for themselves. Unknown to them, something sinister and evil was at play in the background because in Zialand, nothing was ever as it seemed.
To the unwise, the Syndicate was a mere myth, something cooked up by the opposition to explain the ruling party’s ability to hold on to power for over twenty years. Once upon a time Annabel belonged to this group. She was seven years old when enlightenment hit her innocent pair of eyes. That fateful night she inadvertently came upon a group of people who looked and acted like nothing she had ever seen before.
Despite her tender age, young Annabel witnessed a myth turn into reality and understood almost immediately why she could not let anyone else know the truth. She had put faces to the mysterious group of men and women who wielded absolute political and economic power in the land. The Syndicate was real, not something she and her naive little friends could use to scare each other into doing their bidding. Even in those moments on the playground, the fear of the wicked Syndicate was real, but they took comfort in knowing the bad guys didn’t actually exist. No one was coming to get them if they behaved badly or didn’t do what they were being dared to do.
Until they came for Annabel’s family.
Everything about the way the Syndicate conducted themselves told the little girl hiding in the closet that these men were gods. The man kneeling before them, profusely begging for their forgiveness was none other than the president of the land. To everyone, especially her, this man was God himself. To the eight men and three women hovering over him, he was just a puppet.
That man was her father.
“Don’t you guys agree that I look especially ravishing tonight? ” Annabel asked, her voice laced with smothered laughter. “Not that I don’t always look this hot, but-” she puffed out her chest to get a clear view of her cleavage. Any abrupt movement and her nipples would be spilling out from under the little fabric that was miraculously keeping her dignity in check.
“You’ll be the belle of the ball my dear angel.” Manu’s tone reeked of the lascivious thoughts he couldn’t bother to hide, earning himself a stiff glare from his dearly beloved. The sixty-one-year-old made a show rumbling noises with his throat, pretending not to feel the daggers his Mrs was telepathucally throwing at him with her bare eyes. Annabel didn’t need to be looking at the two to know what was going on. She could clearly hear their escalated breathing through the microphone.
Annabel gave her reflection another sweeping look, slowly caressing her hand against the silk of her dress fabric. She turned to the side to catch a view of her backside, knowing very well that she had a live audience on the other side. She bent down, pretending to be working the string of her stiletto, angling her back towards the camera. When she heard Mrs Manu gasp, she knew she was in perfect position to induce a stroke in the venomous woman. She smirked devishly at her shoes.
“I told you it was a bad idea sending this tramp on a mission of this magnitude,” Betty said. “What else can she offer a man apart from smiles and cheekbones? Dexter is a very intelligent man. He won’t fall for this!”
In response to the woman speaking about her as if she was not there, well, not literally but their voices were going straight into her ear, Anabel arched her butt out even further, drawing attention to its plump but toned form sinfully hanging on to her stretched fabric. This was much to Mainza’s amusement, Manu’s dereliction, and Betty’s chagrin. She felt rather than heard Mrs Manu’s gasp turn into a roar right after a hard swallow from her wanton husband, causing her to almost spit out the laugh she had been struggling to contain all along.
Any chance that Annabel got to give the stout Mrs Manu the proverbial middle finger, she grabbed it with both hands. For the Mrs, anyone who was not a member if her family was not good enough to be given any human consideration. She could say and do whatever she pleased without fear of consequence. Power had a way of making people think they were immune to such things. And Mrs Manu was as ruthless as she was unrepentant in her dealings.
“There is no man alive who can resist that girl’s charm Betty. Not even the mighty Dexter.” Manu hungrily licked his lips as he made the pronouncement, his eyes glued to the monitor.
Just as Betty’s roaring was developing into a thunderous storm, raised voices from below the terrace where the party revelers were gathered caught Annabel’s attention and kept her from relishing in Mrs Manu’s misery.
“Subject has landed,” Mainza dutifully announced.