As Abdul neared the ranch, he couldn’t think of anyone whom Fatima had offended. If the named person to be assassinated was Laila, he wouldn’t have doubted that she had offended someone. Fatima was the calmest of the sisters, although she had a foul temper, she was more considerate than Laila. Abdul made up his mind not to share the news with anyone or it could lead to more panic. He wondered briefly about Ali’s death occurring a few hours ago and another death that was about to take place. Could there be a connection? The chief protector decided to focus on lunch and watching over Fatima until the day came to an end. He would spend much time at the ranch and pay the widow a visit later.

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Just as he climbed off the horse, he could hear the sisters chuckling from the kitchen area. A sad smile played across his face. Once upon a time, the ranch had been bubbly and full of plenty life. But everything had changed after their father’s death and debt burden. Abdul led his horse towards the stable where he and Umar usually kept their animals. His face brightened as he found Mallam Ahmed, the man that had been taking care of the ranch relentlessly.
“Peace be upon you today,” Abdul bowed his head in greeting.
The old man nodded, “And you too chief protector. May God bless the work of your hands and lead you to those who out our lives in danger.” The old man replied.
Briefly, they discussed about the killings in the town. Abdul assured the old man that everything would be alright. All the people needed were to stay calm and give him the latest and most genuine information they came in contact with. When the brief chatting was over, Abdul marched confidently towards the kitchen area. He had not gone far when he felt an uncomfortable feeling rising within him. Abdul swallowed. He needed to relax as paranoia was getting to him. The only weapons he had on him were a dagger and a sword, which were not sharp enough for a swift kill. He had come here to protect Fatima, and he was willing to lay down his life. This family had provided him with a lot of support since he and Umar lost their mother.
At first, Abdul had dismissed the feeling as fear. Although he was the chief protector and had been exposed to variant dangerous situations, he equally reminded himself that he was still a man. Mortals were subject to fear. It took great courage to overcome it. After witnessing the horrible dismembering of innocent humans at the Ghoul’s place, Abdul knew he would not be the same for a long time. Right there he stood his ground as the fear took control of his skin. He welcomed the goose pimples that stood out on his hair body. The sun shone brightly and without kindness, what reason did a man have to be cold? Abdul had a feeling that someone was watching him.
Impulsively, his fingers curled on the hilt of his sword. Feeling that bronze hilt was the nascence of all battles. The touch was always significant as it showed the opponent that he was ready to fight if it came to that. He was tempted to pull the sword from the scabbard, but chose not to. Perhaps he was imagining things. Abdul made up his mind to take Fatima out of the ranch once lunch was served.
He sucked in a generous amount of oxygen and turned around slowly, but he found no one. Everything stood still. Only the blossoming grasses moved to the music of the wind. Everything was perfectly balanced. Abdul went on his way until he met the sisters giggling about something that must have been very funny. The strong aroma of spices and the sweet smell of dates consumed the atmosphere. Fatima was a strong cook, and she enjoyed preparing meals thoroughly. His fears faded and the desire to have a taste of the delicious pudding was fixed on his mind.
Fatima had been preparing something special for her ‘eaters.’ She had shredded the lamb into small pieces and cooked it in butter, lettuces, tomatoes, peas and warm milk. With the dates she had collected, she had ground them and soaked the paste in honey; a dessert that she was certain everyone would enjoy.
“Can you grind that garlic faster? I would need more beets to decorate this food.” Fatima issued instructions to Laila who had agreed to be a helping hand. Normally, Laila didn’t help out in the kitchen; she preferred to ride on horses than to cook. But she was worried about her father’s debt; she didn’t know how to break the news to her sisters.
Fatima’s eyes briefly strayed from the pot before her. She was the first to notice Abdul’s present. He had accessed the kitchen from the second door which opened towards the stable area. She had wanted to ignore him after remembering the abomination he committed with Aisha.
“Abdul,” she called gently. She was still mad at him for betraying his brother.
“I am hungry Fatima. Do you intend to kill us with aroma?” Abdul smiled and stepped into the kitchen.
Laila was pleased to see him. She felt bad for not telling him about the letter she had seen in Tanko’s office. But she had promised Tanko, so she wouldn’t go back on her words.
“Someone seems very tired,” she observed.
Abdul sank into an empty chair next to Laila.
“It is very tiring to go after unseen killers.” Abdul murmured.
Fatima’s heart began to race as she remembered the cold eyes of the cowboy. She didn’t know if worrying about it was a good thing. What if she shared her experience with Abdul? She had never doubted her security before until now.
While he waited for lunch to be ready, Abdul thought of the best way to convince Fatima to leave the ranch.
“Would you like to ride with me later? There’s something that I have to tell you.”
Laila almost bruised her fingers on the grater. Abdul and Fatima had never been close, was she missing something? She wasn’t cool with the idea because she equally had something that she had wanted to discuss with Fatima.
“What could that be?” Fatima knew that Abdul’s conscience was pricking him. She could also guess that he wanted to talk to her about his affair with Aisha. She wasn’t interested in that for now.
“It’s something very important and you have to trust me. I don’t have to tell you what it is.” He added.
Fatima turned around and scooped the grated garlic with a silver spoon before giving her back to him. She began to hum a song as she stirred the pot. Her mind was on so many things. She yearned to be around Umar. She missed the days he showed much concern about her. She had been stupid to think that would last forever, especially after she had rejected his advances.

To be continued…

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