© Oluwatosin Emmanuel Oyinloye
“It must be a lady who is familiar with our environment here,” Steve answered. “She did not spend more than thirty minutes in here. It means she knew the box where it was kept and knew her way there.”
“Remember we found a tracker attached to the items,” Agent Mark put in. “That could be all she needed to locate the place easily; it could have been an outsider.”
“I don’t think so, sir,” the shorter forensics agent put in as he stepped forward. “She walked so confidently without any device in her hand to show her the directions. It has to be someone who knows the office.”
“I think they’re right, it has to be someone who’s so close and has enough information about the case,” Paul Edwards said and looked straight at Evelyn.
She held her breath in shock.
There was silence for a couple of seconds and it wasn’t so certain what the Chairman was trying to do so. He had his eyes on Evelyn’s face and she was staring back at him unblinking. He got up to his feet and took a step in Evelyn’s direction. Then, he stopped and turned towards the two officers from the forensics section.
“Will you be able to identify the lady?” he asked the two Agents.
“Yes sir, I can still picture her face clearly in my mind,” the shorter man answered.
Evelyn’s heart skipped a beat on hearing the man’s response.
“Good,” Paul Edwards remarked and then turned to Evelyn again. “I’m leaving this to you, Evelyn,” he said. “Work with these men and let me know who the lady is before today ends.”
Evelyn nodded in response and then turned to the Agents. “I think we should start by getting a facial composite since you remember her well.”
“Yes, let’s get the composite artist from the forensics,” the tall agent replied.
The three of them led by Evelyn walked out of the hall.
“Damn!” Paul cursed loudly as he returned to his seat. “Some bleeping terrorists can’t just leave us so damn clueless. They destroyed the building to make sure we can’t take more evidence and in the world could they have come into here to destroy the evidence we had?”
He was visibly angry and frustrated. So were the other men in the hall with him. He just couldn’t imagine how they could have come so close to identifying the terrorists and all hopes suddenly disappeared. For a moment, he thought of calling back Evelyn and ask her not to bother about identifying the woman. He thought that the terrorists could not have been wise enough to sneak someone into the FOX building without being wise enough to make sure her identity wasn’t concealed. He however still decided to give it a try, without having many hopes that Evelyn will come back with positive results.
Something popped up in his mind as he adjusted himself on the seat. He remembered Carl again. Somehow, he now had a stronger conviction that Carl was involved in all of this. Or who else could have plotted a neat entry into the FOX building to destroy evidence? The fact that Carl had been unreachable since the day before and had not reached him yet made his suspicion stronger.
But why would Carl destroy evidence with which they could use to bring down the terrorists? It just didn’t make sense. The terrorists were Carl’s enemies as much as they were the states.
Then, he also thought of Hutton Ryker. Could Hutton have been the one behind the whole plot? But even if it was Hutton, he couldn’t have gotten into the FOX building easily without having an insider. Hutton had left the FOX several years ago and would not be able to execute such a neat entrance.
It was totally confusing. He just had to raise his faith in Evelyn and hope that she would return with helpful information. Apart from that, their only hopes of making something out of the case depended on the identification of the dead body found in the building.
46 Minutes later
The two forensics had the composite artist sitting at the center. Evelyn was sitting beside the shorter agent and watched all the while as they described the features of the face they saw the last night to the artist. After about 30 minutes, the artist was able to finish the sketch.
“This looks perfectly like her,” the short man remarked.
“Yes, it is,” the other Agent confirmed it.
Evelyn also looked at the sketch and could tell that the artist had perfectly represented the features described to him. The sketch was exactly how she looked like after she applied the makeup to disguise. Luckily for her, the disguise had been carefully done and it bore no form of semblance to her.
“Let’s add colors and scan it right away,” Evelyn said to the Agents.
Twenty minutes later, the image was being scanned through the database of Bethanna’s registered citizens. It took about forty minutes to complete the scan and there was no perfect match found.
“We have to repeat the scan for similar matches,” Evelyn instructed after the first scan was completed.
The man in the database room began the scan again. This time, it took about seventy minutes for the scan to be completed. Evelyn and the forensics agent had earlier gone out of the place to attend to other things. The results were ready when Evelyn and one of the other Agents returned.
“We have five similar matches,” the man reported to Evelyn.
Evelyn’s heart skipped a beat on hearing his report. She remembered that Carl had told her that the disguise was perfect enough and it could in no way be linked to her. But she had doubts at that moment. What if the scan had detected her and her profile was selected in one of the similar results.
“Can we see the results?” She requested.
“Sure,” the man led them to the computer and sat right in front of it. He opened the application and selected the file where he saved the results. “Here are the matching profiles.”
Evelyn held her breath as the man scrolled through the profile one after the other. She only let the breath go after the man scrolled to the last result and she didn’t find herself amongst them.
“You’ll send the results to me but there’s one more scan you must do,” she said to the man. “Scan for perfect matches in the FOX database.”
The Operation Hall
“There’s something wrong somewhere,” Paul said thoughtfully with his fingers placed across his lips. “It’s impossible that the dead man is not from any of the neighboring countries.”
Agents Sylvester and Mark were also sitting around. So many of the junior agents had left the hall and only two were left with the executives.
“I don’t believe that he’s neither from Bethanna or the neighboring countries,” Mark said. “He’s from around, he hasn’t just been identified yet.”
“So, you believe the five countries couldn’t identify him?” Sylvester asked.
Mark stared at his face. “I don’t know what it is, but something must have gone wrong for us to be unable to identify him.”
“And should we strike out the possibility of him being from a faraway place?” Sylvanus questioned.
“That man looked like a Southern African,” Mark answered. “Where else could he be from?”
“I have this strong feeling that he could be from Anthanna or South Husan,” Paul chipped in.
“So, why weren’t they able to identify him as a citizen?” Sylvanus asked.
“That is what we need to find out,” Paul replied. “First, we need to confirm again if he isn’t from Bethanna before we send it back to them.”
“So, we run a scan on him again?”
“Yes,” Paul answered. He was about to say something else when the door opened and Agent Evelyn walked towards them.
“Sir,” she stopped in front of them and saluted. “We completed the scan, we got no perfect citizens’ match, 5 similar citizens’ matches, and no match in the FOX.”
The executives exchanged glances. There was silence for some seconds.
“Does this mean we’re fighting against a complete group of foreigners?” Sylvanus exclaimed aloud.
“No, there’s just something we need to figure out,” Paul replied. “Let’s not make assumptions. We will send the sketch to the neighboring countries for verification of identity. We can make conclusions after we get a report from them.”
“Okay, that seems to be the best option at the moment,” Sylvanus remarked.
“Yeah,” Mark put in.
El Deols, Anthanna.
The day was already dark by the time the cab arrived at the destination. Henry stepped out with the driver and they both went to the boot to take out his bag. He paid the driver and watched him drive away before he proceeded on his feet to the gate of the Jacks’ residence.
He pushed the alarm button at the gate and patiently waited to get a response. In less than 30 seconds later, he heard footsteps and knew one of the security guards was looking at him through the peephole. He took off his face cap and wiped his face with a handkerchief.
Thirty seconds later, a uniformed security guard stepped out through the gate. Another one also stopped behind him at the entrance.
“Good evening, how may I help you?” The man asked Henry.
“Good evening, I’m Sheila Jack’s guest. She’s expecting me,” Henry replied.
“Sheila’s guest? Have you called her?” The man asked.
“Yes, she knows I’m coming at this time,” Henry answered.
“She called to tell us she was expecting someone some minutes ago,” the guard standing behind said to the one questioning Henry.
“We need to be sure he’s the one she’s expecting,” the guard insisted and took out a phone. He dialed a number and placed it close to his ear. “Lesedi, a man is asking to see Miss Sheila Jack at the gate. Can you confirm if she wants him in?” He said into the phone, staring at Henry’s face. He listened silently to the response for a few seconds before he ended the call.
“You may come in,” he said and gestured for Henry to go in through the gate.
“Thank you,” Henry said and adjusted his backpack which was only resting on one arm.
“I’m sorry, we will need to search you,” the guard stated.
“I have no problem with that,” Henry replied.
He stopped at the entrance and was searched. His bag was also searched and nothing harmful was found in it.
He got into the house five minutes later to meet Sheila who was also just coming down to the living room.
“Hello Henry,” Sheila said dryly as she walked closer to him.
“Hi Sheila,” he smiled back.
She gave him a side hug briefly and then turned to sit. “Please have your seat,” she said, pointing to the sofa adjacent to hers. “Would you like to take something? Dinner is ready,” Sheila offered.
“I would love to but we have to talk first,” Henry replied.
“If you say so,” she replied dryly and adjusted herself. “I’m sorry again for the loss of your men, but you still haven’t told me how they were killed.”
Henry looked away and then stared blankly at the wall.
“The codes,” he replied in a soft tone.
“Yes, the developer codes,” Henry repeated.
“I don’t get it,” Sheila frowned. “How could the codes have killed them?”
“The codes were used to lure us into a trap,” Henry replied.
“A trap? I still don’t understand,” Sheila answered, looking so confused.
“You didn’t see those codes by chance,” Henry said and turned to her. “Hutton Ryker allowed you to see them.”
Sheila raised her head and squinted for a moment, trying to recall again how she memorized the codes.
“He thought of the possibility of you escaping the place alive, so he allowed you to see the codes. He had nothing to lose. If you hadn’t escaped, the codes will have never gotten to me and since you did, it got to me but he knew about it. He expected us to track the codes and we did as he wanted. We walked into his trap and he killed two of my men. He tried to set the rest of us up to be arrested by the FOX but we managed to escape.”
Sheila was terribly baffled on hearing Henry explain to her. She was hit so much by the shock that she left her lips agape for almost a minute, thinking about it.
“Shi*t, I was a fool!” She exclaimed in regrets. “I never thought they wanted me to see the codes. I only thought they were just being careless.”
She closed her eyes and buried her face in her palms.
“It happened already, Sheila,” Henry continued. “I’m not here to make you feel guilty or discuss the loss. I’m here in need of your help again.”
Sheila raised her head slowly and stared at him. There were tears in her eyes coupled with a look of unbelief. She wondered why Henry would come seeking her help again even after she offered help that killed two of his men.
“I really don’t want to get you into trouble anymore, I’m not sure I can help you any longer,” she said, shaking her head in grief. “You were right when you asked me to stay out of your plans. I only tried to help but I caused more problems for you.”
“Anybody could have fallen for that,” Henry stated. “Hutton Ryker is clever, he is one of the best strategists I know in the world. He was virtually the FOX’s best before he was betrayed. Anyone could have fallen for his trap.”
There was a brief moment of silence.
“I need you to help me right now, I need to get the remaining three guys back to Anthanna, but I need them to be able to reach me via a number tomorrow.”
Sheila raised her face and stared at him. “How do you need help with that?”
“I gave them a central number several months ago when we first met, but I’ve been out of Anthanna for months and the network operators already assigned the inactive number to another user,” Henry explained. “They will try to reach me tomorrow on that number but someone else would be answering the calls.”
Sheila squinted at him for a while. “You want us to redirect the calls?”
“Yes, redirect the calls from that number to a line on my phone.”
She stared blankly for a while. “We can do that but we need to find the location of the holder.”
“Yes, I know,” Henry nodded. “Can we get it started right away?
“Yes, we can.” She said and took in a deep breath. Then she stood up and straightened her gown. “Come with me.”
Henry picked his two devices alone and followed Sheila, leaving his bag in the living room.
She led him up the stairs and through a hallway until they got to a door. She punched in a combination of numbers on the lock screen and the door gave way.
The darkness in the room gave way as Sheila stepped in. The lights had come on immediately motion in the room was detected. Henry followed her in and stopped at the entrance to look around the room.
The room was a beautifully designed workstation perfect for a developer like Sheila. It was fully equipped with all the tools and devices she could need during her work. There was also a refrigerator by the corner and a sofa for relaxation.
“Do you work alone here?” Henry asked as he followed her to the main system.
“Yes,” she replied to him as she turned on the computers from the single socket.
“This place is nice,” Henry complimented.
“Thanks,” she replied. “Please have your seat.”
She sat first and placed her headset on.
“Do you have visitors come here often? Or someone else comes to work with you?” Henry said as he sat in the other office chair beside hers.
Sheila turned to him and smiled. She knew he was asking because of the second office seat in the place.
“I really don’t have anyone work with me here, I communicate with my colleagues through video chats,” she answered. “There’s only one person who visits me at some of my work hours, that’s why the seat is there.”
“Adrian?” Henry asked.
She stared at his face for a little while. “Yeah, Adrian.”
For the next few minutes, there was total silence between them. The silence was broken only after Sheila asked for the number he wanted to direct calls from. He called out the number and she typed it in.
“It will be easier for us to gain access into the calls and find the location if the holder uses a smartphone,” She said as she typed some things on the keyboard. “If the sim is not in a smartphone, it’ll be less easy.”
“I know,” Henry replied. “If it gets to that, we’ll do a prank call to the holder to detect the location.”
“It’s on a smartphone,” Sheila announced after five minutes of silence. “Here are the details of the holder,” she said before clicking on the enter key to display the details.
Henry stared at the screen and read the registration details of the sim holder.
“It’s a teenager,” he remarked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Go ahead and turn on her GPS service, let’s find the location.”
“Right away,” Sheila made use of the control and function keys and then tapped the enter key.
In less than 30 seconds, a map displayed on the screen and began to zoom in until it circled a particular location. Both Henry and Sheila stared at the screen until the location was clear.
“It’s in Sia!” Sheila turned to Henry. “That’s five hours from here; you have to go very early tomorrow morning.”
“I have to leave tonight,” Henry countered.
“It’s late already, you’ll get there by 2 or 3 AM.”
“I know, I can get a cab to take me there.”
“I doubt that, no cab will want to go there tonight,” Sheila retorted.
“With a huge money offer, any cabman would take me there.”
“Sia is a dangerous place to travel to at nights, I bet no cabman would want to risk his life.”
Henry was quiet for a while. “I’ll find my way somehow.”
“You can leave in my car, very early tomorrow.”
“I can’t risk leaving by morning,” Henry replied. “What if there’s a traffic jam?”
“You can beat any traffic jam if you leave early enough. Then you get to the place not later than 9 AM.”
“9 AM, that’s late already. They would start calling by 8 AM, that’s when the central number is supposed to open.”
Sheila was quiet for a while.
“You can take one of my cars since you need to leave tonight,” Sheila offered. “I’ll suggest you split the journey. Stop along the way and lodge in a hotel before midnight. Then, you wake up by 4 AM to continue the journey.”
“Thank you, that’s what I should. I’m grateful for the car offer but I would not like to bother you. So, I’ll find my way.”
Sheila turned and raised her brows. “You aren’t leaving here without a car. That’s the only way you can journey easily to the place.”
“No, Henry. You have to drive in one of the cars,” She cut in. “Now, let’s get back to work. Let me have the number you want to redirect it to.”
They worked it out for another ten minutes silently.
“You should be on your way now, I’ll finish up the process before I sleep,” she said as she got up. “I Have to get the car keys for you now.”
She proceeded out of the room and he followed her slowly. He waited while she walked to another section of the house. Two minutes later, she returned with the car keys and handed it over to him.
“The jeep is perfect for the journey, I’ll show it to you outside.”
“Thank you so much, Sheila.”
She smiled. “Let’s go now,” she said and led the way downstairs.
Henry stood under the building in front of the house and stared at the road from there. He was in the town where their mission had all began. That same location was where he had trained them before setting out to Bethanna. He was waiting there to get receive them. Two things could happen that day. It could be the end of the mission or time to refuel the mission.
It had been easy to get to Sia. He had taken Sheila’s suggestion to lodge at a hotel along the way. He left the hotel at 4 AM and arrived in Sia before 7 AM. He found another hotel in Sia where he lodged to wait for their calls. He had informed Sheila who was also awake at her end when he got to Sia. Sheila also resumed at her workstation and began to monitor the calls going to the number.
Generally, all calls to that number would be sent first to Sheila. She would let the call proceed to the number if it was a local caller but redirect it to Henry when it was from an international caller. That was how she was able to redirect the three calls to Henry.
The first call had been from Jennifer and it had come in exactly 8 AM. Henry gave her details immediately on the flight he booked for her and where to come meet him after landing in El Deols. Dave and Samantha’s calls came in at 8:15 and 8:35 respectively and they had gotten the same information from Henry. The flight was for noon and the three of them were to meet at the airport.
The brightness of the sun which had been hidden under the cloud was revealed after the cloud passed over. Henry could see the image formed by the shadows of the tree branches and leaves on the floor. His mind flashed back to one of the training days he had with them, where they sat under the tree listening to him. He could see Cole’s again, carefully listening to him and asking questions. Everything about the mission seemed perfect then. They never thought they could return there after a failure.
His phone beeped and distracted him from his thoughts. He took it out and checked the screen. It was Sheila.
“Hello Sheila,” he answered.
“Hello Henry, seen your men yet?”
“Not yet but I’ve left Sia. They are on their way to meet me at a different location. They would soon be here.”
“Okay, great. I just wanted to let you know that you can always reach me if you need my help.”
“Thank you, Sheila. Thank you for always being ready to help…” He was saying when he looked up and saw Samantha, Dave, and Jennifer walking towards the bamboo gate with backpacks strapped on. “They’re here already, Sheila.”
“Great, we’ll talk later.”
A smile appeared on his face as he watched them walk in through the bamboo gate and proceed to him. He stepped forward to welcome them even as they also approached him.
He stopped halfway and smiled broadly, staring at them and so happy to see them again.
Jennifer stepped closer to him first and he pulled her into a warm embrace. The embrace lasted almost for a minute and Jennifer had tears in her eyes when they separated. Henry hugged the two others warmly also and they all walked into the building.
They found out when they got in that the interior of the building was neater than they had expected. They realized that Henry must have come earlier to clean and prepare the whole place for them. He also had prepared lunch for them and treated them to a delicious meal after they settled in.
One hour after they arrived, he stepped into the center of the meeting hall where they were and cleared his throat.
“Listen up guys,” he began, having their attention fully on him. “I’m so glad to see you all again. And I’m also glad to tell you that you are all safe for now. The FOX does not have anyone’s identity and won’t be coming after any of you. We will discuss more on your safety but there’s something we need to discuss first.”
He paused and took in a deep breath. He took a couple of seconds to stare at each person’s face. From their looks, it seemed they already knew what he intended to ask them. But it was still difficult for him to do so.
He managed to take another deep breath and then continued talking.
“I know I messed up already, I made a mistake that could have gotten all of us killed. Cole and Hannah weren’t spared but we got lucky to escape. At this point, I must confess it’s really difficult to continue this. If I had a choice, I would turn back to start a new life.” He paused again with his eyes staring at the ground. He looked up again after a brief moment. “But I have to continue. The three of you do not have to continue with me and I understand if you want to go back to your lives at this moment. You get the full compensation for the mission if you choose to opt out, so you have nothing to lose.”
He stepped back and stopped at a corner of the room, staring at them together. “I’ll like to know if you are willing to continue this journey with me…’
A deafening silence took over the place and they all seemed thoughtful.
Opting out seemed like the best option for Dave. Henry had just promised to compensate them fully if they decided to opt out. He could go back to his life and even live a better life with the money he would get. It was a better choice for him to leave than to risk his life and die just like Cole and Hannah.
He took in a deep breath and looked towards Samantha and Jenny. They all stared at each other at the same time. The same thoughts were going through their minds and the better option was to opt out.
To be continued