The Ibeji Twins

By Anne Kimbell


The Beginning

It was a cold and windy night in the outskirts of London. The American Ambassador’s residence in Regents Park was ablaze with light. The gardens basked in the glow of reflected lights from the long windows looking out into the garden. Through the windows there were glimpses of beautifully gowned women and men in formal attire, with here and there the uniform of a member of the military services represented in the multinational diplomatic corps. The light from a kitchen window revealed a man lurking in the shadows. He wore the uniform of a London Bobby, tall hat and all. But there was something in his demeanor that was less than official. He leaned against the kitchen wall, seeming to want to hide in the shadows. A burst of laughter came from the drawing room as a door opened abruptly onto the garden emitting a glamorously dressed couple linked arm in arm. The man moved backward deeper into the shadows putting his hand on a carefully concealed weapon. London Bobbys don’t carry guns and being found with one would certainly blow his cover.

As the couple moved deeper into the partially lit garden, the assailant stared into the window of the dining room. A short black man in the formal dress of a Nigerian Ambassador to the Court of St. James was the center of attention. He gestured dramatically, causing the wide panels of his sky blue robe to flutter like magical butterflies. His audience was enraptured and moved closer, spoiling the assailant’s shot for the moment.

The man moved back into the shadows as the giggling couple returned, the woman adjusting her dress self consciously over her bare shoulders. The assailant snorted with disgust, dug his heels into the soft earth of the garden and waited his chance, squatting on his heels in a very un-English pose.

There was a soft noise behind him and he rose to his feet, ramrod straight. Someone touched him on the shoulder and he whirled ready to kill. There was a whispered conversation in an African language. An object, wrapped in a kitchen towel was handed to him, and he was told to go. He hesitated, demurred and was given an angry shove before the kitchen door closed, blotting out a circle of light.

The man took one more hungry look through the window where the brightly gowned guests paraded like creatures in a play or under the sea. He hated them. He would kill them all if he could. But he was a man under orders. The object he held in his hand wrapped in a kitchen towel, could do more damage to them than his gun could. He said a silent prayer to Allah, tucked the object under his armpit, rebuttoned his uniform jacket and continued his promenade toward the gates of the residence. The young marine guards nodded at him unsuspiciously as he walked through the gates carrying his precious burden. He hated them all with their white baby faces and their idiotic grins. His fingers itched to whip out his gun and make them stop smiling. He nodded and touched his cap in a half salute, being careful to keep his chin down and his face in the shadow of its brim.

As he left the residence grounds and walked slowly down the street swinging his Billy stick, a sleek black limousine pulled out of the shadows. The driver was an impeccably uniformed Nigerian. He presented his credentials to the marine guards and drove slowly to the front of the residence, parking a little way from the other diplomatic cars. He rolled up the opaque, bulletproof windows, locked the doors and prepared to wait. His partner, on the floor of the back seat, holding a package of pads soaked in chloroform, muttered a remark in Arabic. The driver gave a sharp guttural reply and turned on the radio to the BBC second program. Now all they were required to do was to wait until the glittering party was over and then bag their prize.

Chapter One

The wind was blowing briskly through the trees signaling an early evening rain, when Peter Blake, an athletic looking young man in his mid thirties, dashed up the American Embassy steps in Grosvenor Square, cursing mildly. He had been on his way to a party in Chelsea given by an actress he had been waiting to meet for a month, when the call from the Residence came. Ambassador Williams, in a high dudgeon, was calling from his limousine for his young assistant. Peter nodded to the cocky young marine guard at the door, who raised his eyebrows at seeing Peter back at the office at this time of the evening and dressed for a night out to boot. He saluted smartly and then grinned. “Williams got you by the short hairs, sir?” he said, escorting Peter to the locked private offices and watching while the young diplomat punched in his code to turn off the alarm.

Peter grunted an answer and pushed into the Ambassador’s private office, turning on the lights as he went. Everything looked as usual. The large mahogany desk was flanked by the American flag on one side and a picture of the current American President, on the other. There had been a note of anger, in the Ambassador’s voice when he called. The kind of tone that made heads roll. Peter hoped that his wasn’t on the chopping block tonight for some fault either real of imagined.

Ambassador Williams was of the old school. He was military man by trade, with a distinguished career. He had been appointed to the post of Ambassador to the Court of St. James in repayment of his loyalty to the party in power, and also in recognition of his considerable talents as a military advisor to the present regime. The fact that he was black, and a graduate of West Point, hadn’t hurt his candidacy. He was somewhat of an enigma to Peter who, as a career Foreign Service Officer, was trained to tread carefully with political appointees, who came and went at the whim of the current administration. So far this new Ambassador kept his own counsel, and had done his duties with a formality that set well with the British and with the British press. No scandal marred his name. He had been married for twenty-five years to the same sleek brown-skinned, matron who had produced two admirable sons, both graduates of Harvard and Yale, neither apparently interested in following their father’s military career.

Peter glanced idly at the Ambassador’s desk. It was orderly with a precise line up of embossed pens and pencils, something like a line of soldiers. Nothing looked amiss. One unclassified message dated and timed after the Ambassador’s departure, had been placed neatly in the middle of his desk. It was from the office of Habib Nucombe, the current Ambassador from Nigeria and one of Williams’s new friends. The message canceled a squash game for the following afternoon at two p.m., nothing odd about that. The Nigerian Ambassador was famous for changing his plans at the last minute. Or for arriving at a dinner party with five uninvited friends in tow, thus sending his diplomatic hostesses into a tizzy.

Peter paced the room looking for some hint as to the Ambassador’s agitation. He glanced at the gold Rolex on his tanned wrist. As the minutes went by, he felt his chance of partying with Cherie Le Blanc tonight fading away. The door opened abruptly and Ambassador Williams appeared. He wore jeans and a cream-colored polo shirt, and his coffee colored face gleamed with agitation. “There has been a break in at the residence,” he said grimly,” Someone has stolen some of my personal effects from the safe in our bedroom.”

Peter relaxed somewhat. He had expected that state secrets had disappeared, in which case he might be held responsible. If it was only some of the Ambassadors personal effects, medals or some of his wife’s jewelry, they should be covered by insurance. However, it was unthinkable that someone had actually broken into the residence. It must be an inside job.

“ Who has access to your private quarters, sir?” he asked, hoping to find out which way the wind was blowing.

“No-one except my wife and myself has access to our safe. But we have maids and cleaning staff up the gazoo, who go in and out of the bedroom all the time.”

“Was the house broken into?”

“Not that I could tell.”

“ Have you called embassy security?”

The Ambassador glared at him as though he were some kind of cretin. “ No Blake, I called you first.” He glanced down at his clenched fists. “It would be a great embarrassment to me to have the British press know that our residence is so badly guarded that anyone can walk in, open my safe, take what they want, and disappear without leaving a trace.”

“ What did they take, sir?” Peter asked, masking his chagrin.

“ The Ibeji twin,” the Ambassador spat out, glancing down at the message on his desk

“ The what, sir?”

The Ambassador spoke very slowly as though to an idiot child. “ The Ibeji twin, Ambassador Nucombe gave a piece of Nigerian folk art to me for safekeeping. It is one of a set of sacred twin images revered because Sango, their traditional god, was a twin. I have wanted one for my African art collection for years, and the Ambassador had one sent from Nigeria for me. It was a family heirloom. I was ready to send it home in the diplomatic pouch. It was to have gone tomorrow. That’s how I found out that it was missing." He poured himself a glass of scotch and sat heavily in the leather chair behind his desk. He did not offer a drink to Peter, who remained standing and speechless.

“What would you like me to do about this, sir? “ Peter said softly. “Correct procedure would be to alert security and let the other agency know about this in case this is just the beginning of some kind of attack on your residence and perhaps on the embassy itself,” he continued thoughtfully. “ Whoever did this is showing us that they have easy access. What if it’s one of your household help is a thief or a double agent?”

“ But the damn thing has no great value to anyone but a collector of African antiquities,” the Ambassador mused. ”Fortunately, it’s just a copy of a much older piece. Nucombe probably didn’t know that when he gave it to me to send to the States for safekeeping. It’s just as well. But I don’t like the feel of this. I don’t like it at all.” He picked up the telephone. “ Get me the Department of Defense in Paris,” he barked at the operator. “ I know an officer there who can be counted on to keep his mouth shut and investigate something without bringing in the CBS, NBC, BBC and half a dozen British newspapers, who would have a field day with this one.”

“ But, as you know sir, correct procedure would be to alert our own security people first.”

“Diplomatic procedure be dammed,” the Ambassador said firmly. “ I don’t want our security people or the CIA pussyfooting around my house and questioning my staff. It would scare them to death and Mrs. Williams as well. Someone may have taken this as a prank or as a warning. None of Mrs. Williams’s jewelry was touched nor were my medals. I keep no secret documents in that safe,” he spread his large hands on the desk and looked at Peter questioningly. “Whoever did that was after the Ibeji twin and nothing else, but why? It’s only a small wooden statue carved to resemble one of a pair of twins who died. It has no great value except to a collector such as myself. Or to the twins mother, a Yoruba woman who is long since dead.”

Anne Kimbell's books, including The Ibeji Twins, are available at

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