© Oyinloye Oluwatosin Emmanuel
‘Our current strategy is failing,’ she began, not looking at anyone in particular. Cole reduced the volume of the television to hear her well. ‘Chief Nonso Abel has been captured by the Vice President and they’re threatening us to drop all allegations we have against him. We have to change our strategy; the new plan is to kill anyone at the slightest opportunity we have.’
‘No Tara, we can’t go that way,’ Henry protested as he got up from his seat. His tone and voice made the protest sound rather like a gentle plea. All eyes turned to him while he fixed his gaze on Tara’s face. ‘Please don’t let them influence us, we should not be turned to murderers because of what they do, please. Remember, we’re fighting to take the darkness away, we should not fight darkness with darkness.’
Tarasha eyes locked with his for a moment. She could make sense from his words and could see in the sincerity and passion in his eyes but she decided to be unmoved. She took her gaze off his face and glanced at the other guys, ‘We might need to spend some days out of this city, to plan, re-strategize properly and also train.’ She paused as her eyes met with Henry’s again. ‘I’m considering taking off the allegation for Chief Nonso’s safety but if we do, it would make the world believe more that we carried out the robbery operations.’ She paused again and looked at each one’s faces one after the other. ‘From this moment, no calls should be made or received in this building, no chats or messages should be replied to, until we move out. And start packing your bags right away, we should leave here first thing tomorrow morning. Henry would help the doctor with his bags and Cole, you see me in the computer room in the next seven minutes.’ She concluded and walked away from the living room, leaving everyone speechless and baffled.
She got into the computer room and quickly turned on the laptop she was using as the server in the base. She heard the door open while waiting for the computer features to load, she could smell Henry’s perfume as he walked closer to her.
‘Don’t try to change my mind, I won’t listen to you,’ she said in a strong tone.
Henry halted and stared at her thinly for a while. He shook his head and proceeded forward, still wanting to try his best to convince her. He pulled a chair close to her and sat.
‘Before I try to change your mind, I think I should tell you that the abduction of Chief Nonso is on the news already and the police have credited it again to Samantha Osman, they claimed she kidnapped Chief Nonso just like she did to the last two men who were killed.’ Henry said to her.
‘I’m not surprised about that, I was expecting them to.’
‘Listen to me Tara, there are better ways we can handle this issue that’ll be more productive than killing people.’
She heaved a sigh of tiredness and tilted her head backwards with her eyes closed.
‘I have an idea…’
She cut him short by raising her hand and facing her backpalm to him. ‘I’m not about to listen to you Henry, please don’t discuss this with me anymore.’
‘But we can…’
‘Shut the **** up Henry,’ she slammed and pulled out a gun. She pointed it to his chest.
He shifted back in fear and put his two hands in the air.
‘It’s either you listen to me and follow my instructions from this moment or you quit,’ she said to him in a strong tone. ‘Get the **** out of this place,’ she ordered, pointing the gun to the door. Henry got up slowly and proceeded out of the room. Two minutes later, Cole came into the room.
‘Cole, who did you tell about Chief Nonso?’ she asked as he walked towards her.
Cole stopped in shock, wondering why she was asking him such a question.
‘Boss, nobody heard anything about Chief Nonso from me. Besides, I barely know the man.’
‘Prior to this time, you’re the only one who knows about Chief Nonso’s association with us, Tomi might have only heard me mention Chief Gab a few times and even Henry knows nothing about Chief Nonso.’
‘Boss, do you think I told someone of his association with us?’ Cole asked in a calm tone with his eyebrows raised. He felt bad and disappointed that she could think he would sell them out.
Tarasha stared into his eyes for a few seconds, she could see the disappointment in it. She had doubted that it could be from him but still had to ask to give no room for errors. ‘We need to find how Chief Nonso was captured, how and when they found out he’s connected to us and if they also know about Chief Gabriel.’
‘How do we do that?’
‘First, you get all today’s NSCC records for the area where he was kidnapped from and let’s see the manner at which the kidnap was carried out.’
Cole hurried to another seat immediately and opened up a laptop to begin work.
After fifteen minutes of total silence, Tarasha received a call from Chief Gab.
‘Hello Chief,’ she answered the call with a calm tone.
‘Tarasha, I just heard you kidnapped Chief Nonso,’ Chief Gab stated from the other end, in a rather accusing manner.
‘No, I didn’t, Chief Elvis’ men did,’ she replied.
There was a sudden gasp from the other end and a silence of almost ten seconds. ‘Are you kidding me Tara, Chief Elvis took Chief Nonso?’
‘Yes, he did. I’m thinking they could have found out he was associated to us through the previous building where we were attacked.’
‘But Tara, you said you were going to do something about it.’
‘It appears they had the owner’s name before attacking us, I should have removed the name earlier before moving there if you hadn’t said the house was still needed.’
‘So what do we do now?’ Chief Gab asked in scared shaky voice.
‘I’ll get back to you Chief, everything would be over soon.’ She replied in a confident tone.
It took her five minutes more after the call to confirm that the removal of Chief Nonso’s name from the Ministry’s portal which she had done before was indeed successful. Then she was sure that Rex and his gang must have known the owner before coming to attack them. She knew things had gone complicated and it could get more difficult, especially if Chief Nonso was the lily-livered type. She remembered speaking with him on phone that night, she had implored him that even after she must have removed his name from the Ministry’s portal that night, he could still be questioned by the police or any other security group and therefore should deny having anything to do with the building or with her.
‘Are you making any progress yet?’ she asked Cole as she got up from her seat.
‘Yes, the footages should be ready in ten minutes time.’ Cole answered.
Tarasha walked out of the computer room and proceeded to Dr Ekwueme’s room. She knocked on the door and waited till the man asked her to come in.
‘Good evening Doctor,’ she greeted after closing the door, rubbing both palms together.
‘Good evening Samantha,’ the doctor replied. He was seating close to the headboard in the bed and staring at her in confusion, wondering what she was doing in the room. It was her first time of entering the place and their first time of seeing that day.
‘Hope you rested well today,’ she said and he nodded in response. ‘Okay, I’m going out tonight and I want you to come with me.’
‘I would, I don’t have a choice anyway.’ The man shrugged.
‘We might be working overnight; I do hope you still have enough strength for that.’
‘I can work all night, as far as you don’t give me heavy loads to carry.’ The doctor replied in a cheerful tone.
‘Good! We’d be leaving in the next forty five minutes, prepare’ she said and turned back to proceed out of the room.
‘Do you have any idea how those guys got into the house?’ Dave asked Stephanie as they both stepped into the elevator.
Both of them were properly now washed, the makeup on their faces had been cleaned off and their hairstyles returned to normal. They’d just finished having dinner in the hotel hall and were returning back to their rooms.
‘No, I don’t know how they came in. All I saw was a gun pointed to my head.’ she replied.
Two other people joined them in the elevator, so they had to pause their discussion until they got off to their floor.
‘And what made him hit you on your face?’
‘I think I turned after he asked me not to look back,’ she replied.
Dave stared at the black spot on her face for a while and shook his head angrily. He wished he could see the guy at that moment and punch his face hard in return.
They were lodged in separate rooms but the doors just beside each other. The length of wall separating their door was less than half a metre.
Stephanie stopped in front of her door and Dave stopped in front of his. They turned and stared into each other’s eyes for a minute which seemed like forever.
Stephanie was the first to look away and she immediately began to search her bag for the key.
‘We need to talk tonight,’ Dave said to her.
‘Do we really need to?’ Stephanie asked with a frown. ‘I’m feeling quite and I need to rest.’
‘I know you’re tired and I’m sorry for making you pass through all you did today but we still have to talk before morning tomorrow. Would you prefer I wake you up by two a.m. ?’
‘Two o’clock?’ Stephanie widened her eyes in surprise.
‘Yes, it’s important we discuss before morning.’
‘I’ll call you when I’m done having my bath tonight,’ she said as she unlocked the door with the key.
Forty Minutes Later
In Stephanie’s room. She had changed into a short sleeping gown while Dave was just on a white singlet and black trousers. He sat on the long sofa in the room with a laptop on his right lap while she sat conveniently in the bed close to the edge with her back leaning against the headboard of the bed.
‘We have to leave this hotel as early as five o’clock tomorrow, ‘ Dave said to her, his gaze fixed on the laptop screen and his fingers working on the keyboard.
She folded her arms and stared at his face. His face looked dry and white just like hers. They had visited a nurse who treated the wound on his head and recommended some drugs to him.
‘Why should we leave so early? You have a wound on your headand you need to rest well,’ she said, making it sound more like a complain.
‘Steph, there’s no time to rest now.’ Dave replied back in a gruff voice, now staring at her. ‘We don’t even know if we’re safe yet.’
Stephanie frowned as she heard his last statement, she tried to imagine what he meant but couldn’t come up with anything. ‘What do you mean by that?’
‘We were in the middle of an interview today and our host was kidnapped, we don’t know who did it or why they did it. If the police gets to know of our involvement, they would come looking for us first.’ He said, wanting it to sound like a threat which would make her willing to listen to him.
Fear crept into Stephanie’s heart slowly and she began to imagine different negative scenarios.
‘You don’t have to be scared, we only need to plan and we’d have no troubles.’ Dave said on noticing she was beginning to fear.
Her gaze dropped from the ceiling where it was focused and fell on his face. She was almost regretting why she had agreed to follow him for the interview. If he was a real journalist, he might get the backing of his media house if he got into trouble but she had used a fake identity card which he provided and it could get her into more trouble.
‘I have a plan and if we follow it carefully, we would have no problems.’ Dave continued. ‘I read on the news some few minutes ago that the police has credited the kidnap to Samantha Osman. They mentioned that her signatures were all over the place but thank God, they didn’t mention anything about us.’
Stephanie looked away for a second on remembering something, then she looked at his face again. He was about to continue talking when she interrupted. ‘That guy said Chief Nonso is one of Samantha Osman’s sponsors and he also said you knew about it. You haven’t explained that yet.’
‘I was coming to that part,’ Dave cleared his throat. ‘But since you brought it up now, let’s do away with it.’ he said and dropped his laptop beside him on the sofa. He took something out of his pocket and proceeded towards her. He placed a knee on the ground close to where she was seated on the bed and placed his elbows on the mattress with the item he took out of his pocket still in his right hand.
‘Stephanie, that guy that held you, can you identify him if you see him again?’
‘Yes, I should be able to.’
‘But do you recognize him from anywhere? I’m sure you must have seen him before,’ Dave asked, squinting into her eyes.
Stephanie paused to think for a moment. She closed her eyes and pictured his face in her mind for some seconds but she couldn’t see any resemblance to anyone she had met before. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen him.’
‘You have, but you couldn’t recognize him, I believe you couldn’t because of his changed hairstyle. He also have his eyebrows and moustache totally shaved off, I also did not recognize him at that moment.’
‘Who is he?’
‘He was a friend of the late criminal Don Dan, he was there when you were kidnapped, they worked with the cult group.’
Stephanie tried again to recall if she had seen his face but she still could not.
‘What about the other guy that hit my head from behind, can you recognize him?’
Stephanie frowned for a moment. ‘No, I only remember he had a band covering his forehead. I couldn’t look at his face boldly because he was pointing a gun at me and the other one also had his on my head.’
‘Well, I suspect that those guys are from another group of assassins employed by the Vice President to follow Samantha Osman.’ Dave said.
There was a brief silence in the room. Stephanie pondered on his words and tried to see the picture of another assassin being after Samantha Osman. ‘But you said the police reported that Samantha Osman kidnapped the Chief.’
‘Yes, that was what they reported but it’s not true.’
‘Well, does this mean that you truly knew that Chief Nonso was a sponsor of Samantha?’
‘I don’t know but I suspect he is. I think he’s been suspected by the Vice President too and that’s why the Vice President’s assassins came to get him.’
‘So, they’re going to kill him? What if he’s innocent?’ Stephanie asked in a terrified voice.
‘I don’t think they’ll kill him, they would rather want to use him to lure Samantha to them, or threaten her to take back the allegations she made against the Vice President.’
‘How do you know all these? Aren’t they too much for a journalist?’ Stephanie asked, in doubt of who Dave really was.
Dave reached for her two hands and squeezed her palms in his softly, then he placed his hands gently on her knees, still holding her palms.
‘I’m sorry I lied to you, but I’m not a journalist,’ he said softly, looking deeply into her eyesas she stared into his too.
She released one of her hands from his grip and reached for the item he had dropped on the bed, the one he took out from his pocket earlier. It was an identity card and it had Dave’s passport photograph at the upper right hand side. She stared at it for a few seconds and then looked at Dave’s face.
‘So you’re a secret Agent?’ she asked in low tones, giving him a thin stare.
He nodded and gently squeezed her palm which was still in his left hand. She stared at the identity card for few more seconds before returning it to the bed.
‘So, what about your desert reporters’ID card? Is it fake too?’ she asked.
He was silent for a moment. He had expected her to be angry and blame him for involving her in something so dangerous without considering her safety.
‘I’m a journalist for Desert Reporters, I submit news articles also but I’ve only been to their office once. My work with them is majorly online,’ he finally replied.
‘I knew there was something more to it,’Stephanie began, now staring blankly at the wall. Dave reached for her second palm, hoping she wasn’t going to flare up at him. ‘A journalist had no business coming into the hospital to help me like you did, so I didn’t believe when you told me you were one. I only got a bit confused when I saw the Desert Reporters’ ID card with the original seal this morning but we had gone too far for me to start asking questions then.’
Dave stared at her lips as she spoke, wondering why she was still speaking calmly instead of getting mad at him. She looked down and stared at his face also. He felt bad once again seeing the spot on her eyes.
‘So why did you have to tell me that you’re an Agent, I thought your service is supposed to be secret?’
Dave felt surprised at her question. He blinked his eyes and chuckled, then he rose from his knees and sat at the edge of the bed facing her directly and part of his body touching her legs.
‘I want you to decide what to do, it’s dangerous to work with me. You can choose to return to Abuja today if you want to,I would still join you work on your case against the Vice President.’ he said and waited for her response.
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ she replied, squeezing her face. ‘If you wanted me to decide, you should have told me before we left Abuja.’
Dave closed his eyes for a second. ‘When it comes to my job, we don’t allow people decide to work with us or not. I actually thought I could do to you like we do to the others, but I can’t.’ Dave confessed. He stared down for a moment before looking at her face again. ‘So, I’ll fix the flight for you to return to Abuja tomorrow morning. I’ll check you once I get back there,’ he said and got up from the bed.
‘No, I’m not going anywhere. What about the plans about making the allegations public?’
‘I’ll do that here, we don’t have to be together.’
‘I’m not going anywhere, I’m here already.’ she said stubbornly.
‘Stephanie,’ he returned to the bed. ‘Listen, it’s really dangerous to go around with me. I could get killed at anytime.’
‘But you’ve been at this job for a long time and you are still alive.’
‘Yes, I’m alive but I’m not sure of being alive tomorrow.’
She shook her head stubbornly and folded her arms.
‘Stephanie, what you saw is little today. My job gets so dangerous at times.’ Dave said, trying to convince her. ‘I was the one who led the chase on Samantha Osman from Crescent Moon Hotel in Anambra State someweeks ago, I almost got killed.’
‘Do you chase after her everyday?’Stephanie asked.
Dave heaved a sigh and remained silent for a moment. ‘Do you really want to stay here even after knowing I’m not a journalist?’
‘I didn’t come here with you because you were a journalist, I wouldn’t leave because you’re not one.’
Dave let out a breath and stared at her silently for some seconds. Then he moved closer and held her hand again. Stephanie tried to shift her legs to give space for him but her night gown opened and her left thigh was revealed. She quickly covered it back and remained in the previous position.
‘I’ve seen only one lady in recent times that caught my attention like you do, I wanted to go after her that day…’ Dave suddenly paused. He narrowed his gaze for some seconds as if he was thinking about what next to say. ‘Not that I really had anything to say to her but I just wanted to know her,’ he said and paused again. ‘The truth is, I didn’t ask you to come with me just for you to help me in my investigations, I only wanted to be close to you.’
She folded her lips in, staring at him speechlessly while he continued to talk. ‘I want to ask you again, do you really want to stay here?’
She squeezed her eyebrows and pouted her lips for some seconds. ‘Yes, I’m not leaving here…’
She couldn’t complete her words as he pulled her into a tight hug at that moment. She felt shocked at first but got to relax her body.
‘You’re choking me already,’ she complained a minute after. Dave seemed to be totally lost.
‘I’m sorry,’he released her and quickly jumped to his feet.
She gave him an awkward stare for a moment while he also stood on a spot and stared back at her. ‘I thought you said we had to make plans for tomorrow.’
‘Oh! That’s true.’
Dave returned quickly to the sofa and continued to work with his laptop.
‘Can you come here, I’d like to show you something?’ he said motioning her to join him on the sofa.
She got up and joined him there. She looked at the computer screen to see what he was doing but couldn’t understand.
‘You lost the phone I gave you, you see why I asked you to leave your own phone in your room?’
‘It dropped from my hands when the man hit my face. Did you know I was going to lose the phone?’
‘No, I did not; I didn’t take my phone with me too. As a secret agent, I don’t go around with things that I could be easily traced with.’
‘Hmmm, I get you.’
‘Here,’ Dave pointed to something on the laptop.
She looked at the screen. There was a large map now being displayed and a green shaded circle covering a point.
‘The Chief should be right here,’ Dave said. ‘They’re hiding him somewhere in Igbede.’
‘Is that in Lagos State?’ Stephanie asked.
‘Yes, this is Lagos map. Igbede is a community close to Ajangbadi in Ojo.’
He let her stare at the map for some more time before speaking again. ‘The man was taken with his phone, the installation you made on it before you were attacked apart from recording his phone calls for us, enables us to track the location of the phone on earth at point in time even if it is switched off.’
‘That’s interesting,’ she glanced at Dave’s face. ‘So, do we give this information out to the police?’
‘Police? No,’ he stared at her face. ‘The Vice President controls the police through the Inspector General, we would handle it ourselves.’
‘How? Just the two of us?’ Stephanie asked.
‘Can’t you get the other people from your agency involved?’
‘That should have been the case, but sadly my colleagues have also been compromised.’
‘Are you sure we can go there alone?’
‘We won’t go alone, Samantha Osman would be there before us.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Stephanie frowned.
‘I’ll send her a message and give out their location. If she responds to it as expected and he’s truly her sponsor, she would be the one to go save the Chief.’
‘Oh!’ Stephanie was about to ask another question when a ring tone distracted her. ‘That’s my phone,’ she said as she got up and walked to the bed to pick it.
‘Hello,’ she said after answering the call. ‘Mom!’ she exclaimed as she turned back, her eyes filled with happiness as it met with Dave’s. ‘Are you just landing?’
‘I heard you are in Abuja,’ the mom said from the other end.
‘Oh yes..sss… I was in Abuja,’ she answered hesitatingly.
‘Oh! I landed in Abuja and I was wishing I’d meet you at the house.’
‘No mom, I left already but I’ll soon be back.’
‘It’s okay, I’ll see you later dear.’
‘Yes mom, Goodnight. It’s good to have you back.’
Stephanie heaved a sigh after the call ended and returned to the seat.
‘So, now that Madam Henrietta is back, would you like to return to Abuja tomorrow?’ Dave asked her.
Stainless pushed the door gently open and peeped in. He looked around the room, it was so dark and he couldn’t tell where Rex was seating but he was sure because he could smell the smoke from weed which filled the room.
‘What do you want Stainless?’
Stainless was startled by the voice. He looked towards the direction of the voice and was finally able to see a figure looking very dark from afar.
‘The man is now awake.’
‘Yes, I know he is. The effect of the drug should have expired.’
‘Ermm… Aren’t we doing anything to him tonight?’
‘We’d work on him from tomorrow, Chief Elvis Richards will be joining us.’
Tarasha followed behind the Doctor as they walked into the house. She dropped the box she was holding on the floor to close back the door before proceeding with it again. She had gone with the man to the former base and they had used the laboratory there to prepare different liquids and mixtures. Tarasha had done most of the job, the doctor only supported. He wasn’t a lab scientist or expert in mixing and preparing poisonous substances but was helpful to her due to his ability to use the lab tools and his medical knowledge.
They met Cole sleeping on the long sofa in the living room. He stirred and sat up as he heard them approaching him.
Tarasha stopped at the middle of the living room and stared at him as he stretched and yawned while the doctor proceeded into his own room. She didn’t need to ask him why he was sleeping in the living room. She knew he hadn’t been sleeping in the room meant for him and Tomi and since Dr Ekwueme whose room he shared wasn’t around, he must have decided to use the living room.
‘I got your text message, can you explain more to me?’ Tarasha asked.
‘It’s a message from Dave James, he sent a location to us and claimed that Chief Nonso was taken there.’
‘Isn’t that the Secret Agent who works like a journalist?’
‘Yes, he sent the message as a journalist who was providing information to us, he doesn’t know we know who he is yet. He wants us to be at the location tomorrow morning. Ermm… I mean today actually.’
‘Let’s see the message,’ she said and marched towards the direction of the computer room. Cole followed her. ‘Do you think he’s saying the truth?’
‘I think so, from the footages, two Desert Reporters Journalists were present in the Chief’s house when he was kidnapped, a male and a female. I think Dave James was the one disguised as the male.’
‘We’d have to confirm that,’ Tarasha said as she opened the computer room door.