Chapter 18. Playing With Fire
HANK J. BRIGHTMAN
As a child growing up in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, Tom Nakafe believed that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to. His father, Paul, was a successful and highly respected engineer who held a senior management position with an international petroleum corporation. Tom's mother, Larayna, had her own burgeoning medical practice and was considered among the top pediatricians in the region. Tom excelled at languages and fluently spoke English and French, as well as his native Hausa and Igbo. Much like his father, Tom had an outstanding grasp of algebra, trigonometry and calculus, the latter of which he had essentially taught himself during a holiday break at his family's luxurious summer house (in between soccer lessons with his older brother, Awayle, who played for Nigeria's national team). Tom was an exceptional athlete in his own right, regularly starting as a striker on his private secondary school's soccer team, despite being among its youngest members. He daydreamed that after finishing his undergraduate studies at Oxford, he would complete law school, study international diplomacy and ultimately work abroad, maybe even someday as an envoy at the United Nations in New York. Perhaps he could even join a local football club (provided the Americans understood the difference between his version of football and their own).
Staring out onto the rain-soaked, potholed main street of urban Vining-ton, New Jersey, through ...