By Young C.c
At A Cross Road – Short story by Adeola Ajala
**February 6, 2031**
Dakolo kept pondering on so many things as they rode down the untarred road. He already did his best by putting in place reasonable measures to make sure that Henry gets to the town safely and returns back safely to the hiding place. Their appointment with the NSCC was by 9am but with the time he was seeing on his wristwatch, they would get there thirty minutes earlier.
Several pictures kept flashing through Henry’s mind; especially that of Mrs George, now he began to see an elderly man with her; most times both of them were sitting before him and giving him certain instructions, he couldn’t hear whatever they were saying but he knew from their expression that they were giving instructions or advice.
‘What are you thinking about?’ Dr Tobi who was seated with him at the backseat asked in soft tones.
‘Nothing,’ Henry replied and sniffed in. His eyes met with Dakolo’s in the rearview mirror and another picture flashed through his mind; he saw himself talking with Dakolo in the compound of Elymax hotel, and then he saw a strange man walking towards them; the picture faded away again. Another picture popped up in his mind immediately; he saw himself walk into the Elymax hotel building, then to the restaurant; after some minutes, a lady joined him. He could see her belly, she was about taking her seat, he almost saw her face.
‘We’re almost there,’ Dakolo announced disrupting Henry’s thoughts; the pictures faded away.
‘Hello sir,’ Tarasha said as she answered the phone call.
‘Miss Kim, Henry E.G has just arrived with the police, join us in the control room now.’ Mr Sylvester said.
‘Okay sir,’ Tarasha replied and dropped the call. She rolled her swivel back a little and opened the drawer. She took out a device that looked like a flash drive, she took off the cover and detached a tiny piece from the cover. She put the tiny piece into the inner pocket of her suit jacket before standing up. After straightening up her black trousers which she wore to match the black jacket, she walked out of her office.
**At the control room**
Tarasha, Frank and Mr Sylvester were patiently waiting for Henry and the police officers, the third app developer had been sent to lead the visitors to the place.
They stood before a large box with several buttons on it which made it look like recording mixer. It had a 110 flat screen behind it which served as the monitor for outputting the commands given on the box.
They all turned to face the door as it opened, officer Dakolo was the first to come in, followed by the computer operator who was sent to bring them, then Inspector Clem; they all stepped in and gave way for the people behind to enter except for the computer operator who proceeded towards his colleagues. Then Henry came in, followed behind by Inspector Ken, the Doctor and two uniformed police officers. He began to march forward as he was directed but stopped suddenly as his eyes met with the people he was heading forward to.
He began to vibrate with fright as his eyes moved from Mr Sylvester’s face to Frank and to Kimberly. He couldn’t tell what was wrong but a certain fear dominated heart especially when his eyes met with the lady’s eyes.
‘You guys have you to give him a smile, he does not need all these bony faces.’ The doctor reprimanded the NSCC officials standing before the screen. Tarasha, Mr Sylvester and Frank tried to put on a smile. Henry continued to walk towards them with the encouragement of the Doctor, he moved slowly but his eyes never left Tarasha’s face.
‘Here,’ Mr Sylvester said to the other NSCC officials and they made way for Henry to come before the box. For a minute Henry took off his eyes from Tarasha and stared at Mr Sylvester’s face intently, the man’s voice had rung a bell to him.
‘Good afternoon Henry,’ Mr Sylvester said to him as they got closer to each other. Henry did not reply but another similar voice to Mr Sylvester’s began to ring in his head. ‘I don’t want to lose my job… My job… My job,’ Henry kept hearing as he stared at Sylvester’s face.
‘You have to put your thumb here,’ Mr Sylvester said to him, Henry obeyed and put his thumb on a transparent part of the box. He had been already briefed about what he was going to do, he was also told that he was going to meet with some of his colleagues at his former place of work.
His finger print appeared on the screen but it was blur. Tarasha moved closer to the screen and swiped down a vertical bar, the notification on the screen showed red, meaning that the print wasn’t correct. ‘I think we should get him a chair,’ Tarasha said.
Frank made the move to get the chair while Tarasha moved closer to Henry. Henry’s eyes was on her face but she didn’t mind; she believed that even if he was fine physically, the effect that the poison had already had on him would not make him remember anything; oblivious of the work that Dr Tobi had done.
A chair was gotten for Henry and he sat on it, then Tarasha helped him place his thumb on it properly; the correct print needed appeared on the screen. Then it disappeared and the word ‘Authorizing’ displayed, and then unlocking, it began to read from 1℅ upwards.
‘It’s done,’ Tarasha announced to everybody, she helped Henry adjust his collar as she returned to her previous position. Henry’s eyes kept following her around.
‘Finally!’ Mr Sylvester exclaimed, making Henry turn his gaze to him.
‘Henry, let’s go now.’ the doctor said with a pleasant smile.
‘I don’t remember anything yet,’ Henry objected loudly.
Tarasha felt something strange strike her heart as she heard Henry talk like a child, she didn’t know what it was; she had been trying to avoid staring at his face but his voice was something she couldn’t ignore. A feeling of guilt also began to rise in her heart, as she saw him looking at the doctor for help. She quickly discarded all her thoughts with a hiss, then she cleared her throat and pouted her lips with the determination to remain focused and not allow her emotions take over.
‘Don’t worry, you’ll remember,’ Dr Tobi said with an encouraging smile which made Henry stand up. ‘Let’s go to some other places now.’
‘Thank you Agent,’ Mr Sylvester said to Dakolo as they began to make their way out of the place.
‘It’s okay Mr Sylvester,’ Agent Dakolo replied. ‘I hope you guys can now return sanity to your system.’
‘Yes sir,’ Tarasha answered him from behind, Agent Dakolo turned to her and smiled. ‘That’s all we need, we can now also track the faces of those killers.’ she added.
‘Thank you Miss Kim, thank you Mr Sylvester; for making this as brief as promised.’
An alarm began to sound on Cole’s phone, he picked it up to check. It was the message he was expecting; his boss had placed the tracker on Henry’s body. He walked back to the bed where Aisha was sleeping and sat beside her. He gently tapped Aisha’s shoulder before he picked up his laptop and placed it on his laps.
‘Yes?’ Aisha answered his tap hesitatingly.
‘The tracker has been placed, remember the boss asked you to call her immediately we get the signal.’
‘Yes,’ Aisha hissed and sat up. ‘She asked me to come pick the drive.’
Saturday 8th February, 2031
Two days after Henry had been taken to the NSCC office, normality had returned to their system and Henry had also returned to the hiding place safely but not after he met with his mother in his apartment. Dr Tobi and the police officers had hoped that with his exposure to the NSCC office and it’s staffs again and to his mother and his own apartment, he would have regained his memory but that didn’t happen; the only thing Henry continued to say was that he saw faint pictures of the people and kept hearing their voices. Even when he met physically with his mum; after an hour of talking with him, all he could say was that the voice was sounding familiar but he never remembered her being his mother or even if he had a father. Another person he kept mentioning was the girl who held his finger for the thumb print , Frank and Mr Sylvester but he never mentioned anything specific.
Dr Tobi began to lose hope on the case and fear began to envelope his heart. His solution had not made the desired effect of returning Henry’s memory and with the way Henry was responding, Dr Tobi was scared that it could later turn into a mental illness that would make him start to hear voices in his head at all times and also hallucinate uncontrollably.
‘I think this is a comfortable distance for us to stop,’ Aisha said to Cole.
Cole slowed down his speed of driving and took a look at the tablet device on Aisha’s lap, he confirmed that they were really at a reasonable distance to stop. He pulled over close to the bush and took the tablet device from her, he took note of the distance in metres from their targeted place to where they were; it was a distance that the bomb launcher could cover and even go beyond. Luckily for them, they were also close to a forest of several tall trees where he could climb, locate the house from and launch the bomb. If he could get a very good tall tree that would allow him straight access to the target house, there would be no need to wait in the area overnight to strategize again.
‘Doctor, can we take a stroll?’ Henry cut through Dr Tobi’s thoughts as he joined him on the balcony.
‘Yes sure,’ Dr Tobi replied eagerly, hiding his worries with a smile.
‘Thank you,’ Henry said smiling. As usual, two officers were about to escort them but Ken stepped them when he came out of the house.
‘You are going to take a stroll right, may I come with you?’ Ken asked.
Dr Tobi turned to look at Henry’s face but Henry turned away without saying anything. ‘Yes, you may. I don’t think Henry would mind.’ Dr Tobi said to Ken.
‘Thank you,’ Ken said and signaled for the officers to return.
They stepped down from the balcony to the road and took the left turn.
Cole was up on a baobab tree, the house in target was on a high hill and not difficult to spot, it was the most beautiful in that village. Maybe it was their King’s palace, Cole thought to himself.
‘Faster,’ Aisha whispered to him. She was down the tree, watching for passers-by who may want to interrupt while she acted like she was just sight seeing.
Cole heard her but gave no reply, the leaves on the branches of the tree had him covered and he could not be easily seen by passers-by who looked up except if they were staring intently. He took off the bag from his back settled well on the branch of the tree. Then he brought out the bomb launcher from his bag.
The day’s stroll was not a unique one in any way, nothing different or exciting was seen. The village and villagers seemed to be unusually calm that day. Henry was about complaining when Dr Tobi reminded him that it was Saturday and that on most weekends, the villagers were in their huts resting or at playgrounds catching fun.
‘Or do you want us to go to the game centres or the palm wine joints?’ Dr Tobi asked Henry. They were just some few metres away from the balcony, they were still on the road, facing the house from where they were.
‘What kind of games do they play at their game centres?’ Henry asked the doctor, considering the suggestion.
‘They play Ludo, Ayo, draft and a lot of others,’ Dr Tobi answered.
‘Hmm… I’ve not played those games before,’ Henry said.
‘You must have played one or two of them, you’ll remember when you see the game boards.’
‘They have boards?’ Henry asked again.
‘Yes, they have boards…’ Ken tried to come in. Henry gave him a sharp frown as if to warn him from talking and tell him that he was only interested in the doctor’s explanation. The doctor made a signal to Ken to continue explaining. ‘They have boards and they have other items used in playing…’ Ken continued but Henry did not wait to listen, he began to proceed towards the house.
‘Wait Henry,’ the doctor ran after him and stopped him. ‘I think we should go to the game centres.’
‘The games do not sound interesting to me,’ Henry retorted.
‘Ermm… Okay, let’s go to the palm wine joints then. You would get to taste the freshness of the wine gotten from palm trees, I’m sure you would like it.’
‘Hmm,’ Henry licked his lips, the offer sounded better.
‘Okay, but I want to take my handkerchief inside first, I forgot to take it before.’ Henry said.
‘Okay, just wait. Let me ask one of the officers to get it for you,’ the doctor said and began to walk towards the balcony while Ken and Henry waited at the two opposite sides of the road.
The doctor climbed the stairs up the balcony and began to approach one of the officers who also began to come closer on seeing him. As the doctor was about giving the instruction for the handkerchief, a missile hit the house and the whole place went up in flames.
The surroundings of the house were also affected, Inspector Ken and Henry were flung away into the bush by the vibration. Just few seconds after the first explosion, another missile hit the crumbled house again, more of the particles from the building were scattered abroad forcefully. Ken and Henry were lifted away from where they were previously flung to and moved to a farther distance by the second vibration.
After a minute of waiting without any more explosion, Inspector Ken rose out of the bush where he had been flung to with bruises all over his body and his forehead with a slight cut, he began to look for Henry. In few seconds, he was able to locate the place where the Henry was. He watched for few seconds more before crossing to the place Henry was. Henry had passed out already, his head hit the stump of a tree; he was bleeding badly. Ken pulled him out of the bush carefully. He took another look at the exploded house; he was sure that even the doctor could not have survived the explosion.
He lifted Henry to his shoulder and began to carry him slowly, hoping to get somewhere that was safe enough for him to help with any kind of first aid.
‘How are we sure that Henry EG has been killed now?’ Aisha asked Cole as they entered back into the car.
‘There is no way anyone in that building would survive what we just did to them,’ Cole replied throwing the bag to the backseat.
‘But how are we sure Henry is in that place? Wouldn’t he have taken off the clothes he wore yesterday?’
‘He would have taken it off, but he couldn’t have left the house.’ Cole said as he kicked off the engine. ‘Let’s visit the place before we leave.’
He began to drive in direction of the exploded house. He horned furiously at the villagers who were coming out of their houses carelessly to see the exploded house. The people gave way for him, wondering what kind of person was driving towards the place where everyone was running from.
‘Drop me, drop me,’ Henry forced himself down the Inspector’s shoulder. The Inspector had not been able to go too far as Henry’s weight which was almost more than his own slowed his steps.
‘Inspector Ken,’ Henry said after coming down from Ken’s shoulder.
‘Henry, you recognize me?’ Inspector Ken asked in surprise.
‘Yes, I recognize you.’ Henry replied.
Officer Ken was glad but he knew it wasn’t the right time to be rejoice yet, he turned around to look at the villagers who were staring at them on the road. He quickly approached one of the old men to ask for help, Henry followed him behind slowly and started a conversation with another villager, the villager made him move about a metre away from Ken.
‘Sir, please can we get somewhere to hide right now?’ Ken asked the man but the man stared at him helplessly as he couldn’t understand English language.
‘Papa, oni…’ a young man tried to explain to the old man in their native language but their attention was drawn by a car that was approaching them. Ken turned to look at the car, the window by the driver’s side gently rolled down and a gun was pointed out to Henry who had his back turned to the car, he and the villager he was talking to didn’t notice the car.
With all the strength remaining in Ken’s body, he ran towards Henry screaming. ‘Noooooo!’ But it was late before Henry turned back, the gun was already fired, twice.
Inspector Ken received the bullets into his belly.
to be continued.