® 18+ SNVL
© Oluwatosin Emmanuel Oyinloye
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.
“I’m not asking for an immediate answer,” Henry said as he took two steps forward. “I’ll give you some time to decide and get back to me. Remember, any decision you make is fine with me.”
Henry turned and was about to proceed to the door when Jennifer spoke.
“I have made my decision,” she stated, standing up from her seat.
Henry stopped and turned his face sideways. He could see her with the side-eye without turning. He expected her to voice out her decision but it seemed she was waiting for him to turn to her.
After a few more seconds, he turned slowly and stared at her. She was standing straight opposite him, only about four meters apart.
Jennifer’s silence worsened the apprehension in the air and it seemed like she was not sure of her decision like she had sounded initially. She had a pitiful look on her face. It wasn’t different from the face of someone mourning and in deep grief.
Henry felt a pang of guilt hit him as he drew in a breath. He had thought he was ready for this but he wasn’t. He had believed he was prepared for whatever answers they would give to him. But as he stared at Jennifer’s face, he knew he would certainly feel some grief if she or they all decided to back out.
A tear rolled down Jennifer’s eyes but she quickly wiped it off and sniffed in before she started talking. “When I saw Cole dead that morning, I realized we had signed up for something more than running around and fighting with the street guys. It finally hit me that our lives were at stake and as long as we’re in this with you, we would always be in danger.”
She paused for a while and took in a deep breath.
The place was so silent that one could hear the drop of a pin. They all had their eyes fastened on her and their ears listening attentively. It was a defining moment for them, a time to choose between life and death.
“I desperately want my life back,” Jennifer continued. “And I don’t want to die fighting a cause I know nothing about, I would like to opt out…” she stopped again and sniffed in.
Henry drew in a deep breath. He felt some deep pain inside on hearing she wanted to opt out and he felt alone already, even though the others hadn’t pronounced their decisions. He was about to speak but Jennifer wasn’t done yet.
“I will no longer continue on this mission because we have been fighting for you, fighting your cause alone.” Jennifer continued, staring straight at Henry’s face. “But I can’t stop because I have a reason to fight now. Cole’s killers must not go unpunished. I would continue because we need to punish them for killing Cole.”
Henry felt some relief on hearing that Jennifer was back into the plan. He managed to conceal the smile that was about to escape his lips. He turned his gaze to Dave and then to Samantha, and back to Jennifer.
She seemed to have completed what she had to say. So she turned with Henry to look at Dave and Samantha, waiting to hear from them.
“I’ll go with you,” Dave joined in after a few more seconds of thinking. “I owe this to Cole,” he added and he rose slowly from his seat.
A light smile escaped Henry’s lips this time but it slowly faded away as he turned to Samantha. Dave and Jennifer also turned to Samantha.
She seemed to be in deep thoughts about it but she closed her eyes and shook her head as she saw all eyes on her. Her eyes were kept close for more than ten seconds. Then, it popped open and she looked straight at Henry.
“I’m with you, Henry.” She finally said and also got to her feet. “I believe in you.”
Henry no longer concealed his smile and even let out a giggle this time. Only Samantha had stated that she believed in him but it did not matter. Whatever cause was motivating them was not so important. The most important factor was that they had the same enemy and the same goal.
He stepped closer to them and stretched his palms wide to them. “For Cole,” he said.
Dave was the first to move closer and place his palm on Henry’s. “For Cole,” he said also.
“For Cole,” Samantha voiced as she joined her hand.
They all turned to Jennifer who still seemed to be lost in thoughts.
She stepped forward and sniffed in before stretching out her hand. “For Cole,” she said in a teary voice.
Kahn, Daysman, and Chanda were all sitting on a sofas in the living room. Only Hutton was sitting away from them, with some papers on the table in front of him. The television was on but none of the men seemed to be paying attention to it. The atmosphere was tensed and only Hutton who was sitting aside looked relaxed, even though busy.
Kahn who was holding his phone in his hand apprehensively finally received the call he had been waiting for. The other men including Hutton all glanced at him as his phone began to ring.
“It’s him,” Kahn whispered before answering the call. He placed it close to his ear and listened without saying a word. After about ninety seconds of listening, he finally said “Thank you” and ended the call.
He got up immediately after placing his phone on the arm of the sofa.
“Bleep it, Hutton. They got away. They destroyed the building, destroyed the evidence, and escaped successfully. Our bleeping great plan failed,” Kahn complained bitterly, with his eyes staring at Hutton while he talked. He turned after and ran his palm over his face and into his hair.
Hutton seemed finally bothered after what Kahn said to him. He had frozen for seconds with the pen in his hand suspended slightly above the table. His mind quickly flashed back to the day Carl and his men were captured in that firm.
He remembered watching the men turning Carl’s and his men’s hands backward to cuff them. He had personally observed the manacles to see if they had been locked properly, especially the one around Carl’s wrist. There was something he was still yet to understand and that was how Carl and his men had gotten away before the FOX could meet them there. He wondered if it could be any of the men whom he left that helped them but he trusted the man who was in charge and knew he couldn’t have betrayed his team. However, he could still not tell how Carl and his men were able to take the cuffs off even after he left with the keys.
He decided not to think about it so much. It was Carl and Carl was full of springing surprises. Escaping after cuffing his hands must have not been so difficult to do. What he really had to wonder about was how Carl was able to penetrate the FOX office and destroy the pieces of evidence they took. And also how he was able to get back safely into town and bring down the building where they could get more proofs.
It occurred to him that Carl could have only destroyed the evidence through a mole in the FOX? But who exactly was that mole? He asked himself. He needed to know who Carl’s mole was in the FOX to be able to track Carl himself.
He got up and proceeded to the area the other men were sitting.
“Let me talk to Michael,” he requested, stretching out his hand to collect Kahn’s phone.
Kahn stared at him for a second before handing the phone to him. Hutton opened the call history and dialed the last number.
“Hey, Michael,” he said and turned his back towards the other men. “I want to know how exactly the evidence taken by the FOX was destroyed.”
“A lady came into the office at night and wiped all the items clean with ammonia liquid,” the voice explained from the other end. “She came faking the identity of Hannah Kelvin. The FOX’s portal was hacked and the officers on duty confirmed her wrongly.”
“Has this woman been identified yet?” Hutton asked.
“No, we’re yet to identify her.”
“Okay, but is it certain that it was a lady?”
“Yes, the camera caught the features of a lady. We have only not been able to match the face with any real person.”
“I need you to get me the names of all female Agents working or connected to that case, especially those that knew about the evidence.”
The FOX Corporation,
EPA Hill, Bexford
“It’s damn crazy how those terrorists could get away from us and wipe off every trace, we don’t know their locations and we can’t even find their identities.” Paul lamented. He was sitting with both palms on the table and his eyes facing his listeners. Mark and Sylvanus were sitting on the other side of the table.
“I suggest we look inwards, especially concerning the woman that penetrated the office last night,” Mark replied.
“The search was done and the lady isn’t a member of the FOX, neither is she a citizen of Bethanna. I checked the composite image myself and it doesn’t match anyone in the FOX. So, how else can we look in?”
There was silence for a couple of seconds.
“I think there has been one aspect we’ve been overlooking for a while,” Sylvanus said and they both looked at him. “We haven’t focused on investigating who sends us clues. I’m already thinking this is a game of some sort.”
Paul squinted for a moment as he pondered on Sylvanus’ words. “So, you think we only get the clues to lead us to a dead-end?”
“Yes, that’s what it seems like. Since we’ve been getting these anonymous clues, we’ve never made a success out of it. And we’ve never been able to trace the source of the clues,” Sylvanus repeated.
“There has been a team in charge of tracing the source but there has never been a success with it,” Paul replied.
“It could be true that this is a kind of game,” Mark chipped in. “We’ve never been able to trace the source of the clues, neither have we made any success from the clues given.”
“But what could be the gain in the game?” Paul questioned.
“To waste our time,” Sylvanus answered.
“To waste our time to what effect?” Paul retorted.
There was quietness for a while. It all didn’t make any sense to the FOX officials.
“But I still think we should redirect our focus to the source of the clues right now,” Sylvanus continued. “Since the person sending us the clues seems to know a lot, he probably would know all we need to know about the terrorists.”
“You’re right, Agent,” Paul remarked. “We will do all we need to find out where the messages came from.”
The planning commenced immediately after they all made their decisions known. They had all returned to their previous seats with Henry now sitting on a stool and facing them. He had a laptop on the table beside him.
“As I said before, the most important aspect of our work is staying safe. We can’t afford to lose anyone again and we must all follow the instructions to remain in safety. Now that we discussed safety, we will talk briefly on the plan to hit the Wolves back,” Henry said before finally standing up from the stool.
“In that operation that cost us the lives of Cole and Hannah, we had a perfect plan but we were ignorant. We were ignorant that Hutton knew we were coming and that dragged us down and we only escaped by chance,” He paced the floor slowly as he spoke. Then, he turned to face them again. “Hutton Ryker also had a perfect plan. The FOX officers could have met us there and arrested us, it would have been the end and he would have had total victory over us. But he was also ignorant or perhaps he never thought of the possibility of us having a master key for the handcuffs. That foiled his first plan of getting us arrested but he must have also thought that we had no way to escape since the FOX would be able to identify us with proofs from our center. However, we managed to destroy the building and also destroy the evidence taken by the FOX…”
“How did you do it?” Samantha cut in, staring at him inquisitively.
“I would answer that,” Henry replied. “But before I do, I’ll like to find out if you learned from our experience.”
He stood at the center and dipped his hands into his pockets, staring at their faces to see who would answer first.
“To be careful when we make plans?” Jennifer spoke.
“Uhm… That’s a part of it but not really. We have always been careful while planning,” Henry replied and turned to the next person.
“To make sure we consider all aspects while planning,” Dave replied. “Never leaving anything out.”
“You’re right,” Henry turned to him sharply. “We should never leave anything out, but the challenge is you may never know when you’re leaving something out.”
Henry turned to Samantha now who was yet to speak.
“We should always cover all possible ways for the enemy to escape or get back at us,” Samantha answered.
“Correct!” Henry paused and then looked at the three’s faces. “You’re all right, but there’s something I want to bring to your notice,” he said and then returned to his seat.
He sat with a foot on the floor and the other resting on the brace of the stool. “You see, no plan is perfect. Our plan was perfect against Hutton but he had made some moves before us that we did not know about,” he explained his point, making gestures with his hands. “He also had a plan against us but he wasn’t aware we could make moves after he left, our moves made his perfect plans imperfect.”
“What am I saying?” He readjusted himself on the stool again and placed both feet at the brace on each side. “No plan against another is perfect as long as your opponent can still make moves or has made moves before you. In this case, Hutton Ryker has had a lot of plans before he stepped in. He has planned for the most likely moves that could be made against him and probably has responses for all,” he paused for some seconds again and rubbed his forehead gently with the tip of his index finger. “This is why we will be attacking in a way he doesn’t expect and we will also make sure he’s caught at a point he can make no extra moves.”
“Interesting…” Samantha commented, smiling broadly. “And how are we executing that?”
“In a simple way, one you may think is not good enough to get him,” Henry replied. He looked around again before he continued. “We will be hitting him back through Trip Jones.”
“Trip Jones?” They chorused in unison, staring at each other surprised.
“Yeah, Trip Jones,” Henry replied. “But we are not going directly. Hutton knows we followed Trip already and Trip knows we followed him, so they would be very careful and have enough defense to make sure we don’t come through him again.”
They all stared eagerly at his face as he stopped again. It seemed like he was considering whether to tell them yet or keep it to himself.
“We’re going through Thomas,” he finally said but ended up confusing them as they didn’t know who Thomas was. Samantha was about to question him when he explained who Thomas was. “He is a friend and a colleague of Trip Jones, the same that was on the call with Trip that night.”
There was some relief of tension after he explained. They looked at each other’s faces and thought it was a good idea.
“How did you know his name?” Jennifer asked.
“I didn’t leave it at the conversation that night,” Henry answered. “I worked with Cole to find out who he was.”
“By the way…” Dave cut in. “Who’s going to take Cole’s job? The three of us here cannot match his skills currently.”
“That’s one of the challenges we have now,” Henry replied with a sad look. “But we are not attacking immediately, so we have enough time to look for a replacement.”
There was a brief silence after Henry’s response, he was about to talk again when the phone he placed on the table began to ring. He turned back to pick the phone and looked at the screen. The caller was Sheila.
He stared at the screen hesitatingly for a while before he decided to answer the call. “Please excuse me,” he said to his men before placing the phone close to his ear.
“Hello Henry,” Sheila greeted in a calm voice from the other end. “I just discovered some minutes ago that the FOX sent another picture for identification after the one we intercepted.”
“Did you intercept this also?” Henry asked.
“No, you didn’t ask me to. I only checked and noticed another one was sent.”
“And it has been delivered?”
“Delivered and read.”
Henry took in a breath. “What picture was sent this time?”
“A lady, they had pictures of her in a winter suit. The pictures were taken at night and weren’t too clear but there was also a composite image that brought out clearer pictures,” Sheila explained.
“Okay, that won’t cause problems for us. But if you can, please filter the subsequent messages to ensure they do not resend the first image.”
“Okay, I will.”
“Thank you,” Henry replied.
The call ended and Henry took in a deep breath.
“That was Sheila Jack,” he said to the three. “She helped me in getting you here safely and also to stop the FOX from identifying Cole’s body.”
“Why not Sheila Jack?” Dave asked suddenly in a loud voice, glancing at Samantha and Jenny.
“Why not, Sheila?” Henry squinted at him, wondering what he was talking about.
“Yes, why can’t Sheila Jack replace Cole?” Samantha answered. “She’s probably better than Cole and she knows about the mission already.”
Henry shook his head and let out a deep breath. He was about to reject the suggestion when Jennifer supported the other two.
“It makes sense to me too. No one else would help us get it done better than Sheila.”
Kahn had not been able to sit since he had gotten the news of how Henry and his men wiped off their trace. He continued pacing about the living room and cursing under his breath. The other two men had left there. Hutton had also returned to his previous position and was working silently.
A phone rang and temporarily distracted Kahn from his rage. He reached for the phone on the table and answered the call. He spoke and listened to the caller for a few seconds before he turned towards Hutton’s position.
“The call is for you,” he said, stretching his hand with the phone without moving from where he was.
Hutton got up and walked closer to get the phone with no rush.
“Michael,” he said into the phone after taking it from Kahn.
“I’ve got the names and profiles of the ladies you requested,” Michael said from the other end. “I’ve sent them to your email.”
“Thank you,” Hutton said and ended the call. He handed the phone back to Kahn and returned to his seat.
He arranged the sheets in his front neatly and put them aside. Then, he moved his laptop closer and opened it up. It took about one minute for it to boot completely.
He connected it to the internet and opened his email application quickly. He located the mail from Michael and downloaded the attachment. It was a PDF file containing brief details of some FOX agents.
He opened the PDF file and discovered there were only three profiles there. He scanned through them and read noticed the first names of the ladies. “Sandra, Evelyn, Lydia,” he muttered to himself.
Those three were the ladies working directly on the Wolves case and who had also known about the items in the forensics lab. All he needed to do was find out which of them was closer to Carl Winston. He was a hundred percent sure that Carl had penetrated the FOX through one of them