— El Deols, Anthanna –
06: 15 PM
–Emery Jack’s Apartment–
“I’m sorry, I tried my best to convince him but he was adamant,” Adrian relayed to Sheila in a sad tone. He looked at her face and saw the disappointment in it. “I’m sorry, Sheila.”
She heaved a sigh. “It’s okay, I understand how difficult my Dad can be. It’s just going to be tough having to remain where he wants me without achieving what I plan to.”
“But what if he sets up a workplace for you in his office?” Adrian suggested. “That keeps you very close to him and also secure.”
Sheila stared at his face thoughtfully for some seconds before shaking her head. “He’s not going to allow that,” she replied in a sad tone.
“He would have a lot of reasons,” Sheila shrugged. “For example, it makes his company a form of a target. And the office is a wider place, it would be difficult to keep the security focused on me.”
Adrian sighed resignedly.
“I’m just damn tired of the whole thing,” Sheila lamented in a raised tone.
“It’s gonna be okay, babe,” Adrian pulled closer to her. “We’re going to find a way to sort it out.”
He placed her head on his shoulder and cuddled her.
09:02 AM – The next day
The FOX Corporation, EPA Hill
“Good morning, Mr Chairman,” Agents Tom and Mensah greeted as they settled on the visitors’ chairs in Paul’s office.
“Good morning, Agents,” Paul replied, unbuttoning his suit jacket to make himself comfortable on his seat. “Has there been any progress with our investigation on Agent Michael?”
“Non yet,” Tom replied. “The abductors left no clue whatsoever at the location. It’s empty of anything useful.”
Paul Edwards heaved a sigh. Of course, he knew that it would be impossible for them to find anything at the venue. He just couldn’t tell them all he knew about the abduction.
The last night had been a restless one for Paul. It was already more than eighteen hours after his grandson had been kidnap and there had been no word from the abductors. Even though he tried to keep a calm demeanour, he had a war of worries raging inside him.
He had discussed more with Carl when he got home. Carl had explained all about the G63 to him. Even though he found some of the explanations quite unbelievable, he knew that impossibility wasn’t a word in Hutton Ryker’s dictionary. As long as Hutton wanted it, he would go for it at any cost.
The executives with him began to discuss the efforts they made to protect their families but Paul couldn’t keep his mind there. He was now sure Michael was the mole but the only problem was how he would tell the truth to his colleagues.
“Gentlemen,” he said after a few seconds of silence. “I think we need to begin considering more possibilities and properly scrutinize Agent Michael’s report.”
The other executives stared at him with interest.
“We need to ask ourselves why Agent Michael was kidnapped instead of those in the higher hierarchy. He isn’t among the top six executives. If the Wolves wanted a confession from anyone, it would be from the top six.”
Tom and Mensah glanced at each other. Paul’s point seemed to make sense to them.
“So, what more do you think we should do?” Mensah questioned.
“Examine everything properly,” Paul reiterated. “He claimed that he fought with and killed some of the men while trying to escape but we found no trace of blood at the property, did we?”
“No,” Tom shook his head. “Everything was cleaned properly. The forensics searched and saw nothing they could use to identify anyone.”
“That can only mean that Agent Michael did not reach us immediately after his escape,” Paul stated. “If it was immediately after, the abductors wouldn’t have had time to clean up the place. I mean people trying to escape from the FOX should definitely have no time to do a proper cleaning.”
Tom and Mensah continued to listen silently. Even though Paul was still making sense, what he didn’t realize was that Michael had admitted after he(Paul) left to receive the call that he had escaped hours before he reached the FOX.
Not only had Michael admitted that, but he also gave a good reason for it. He told them that he thought if he had reached out to Paul Edwards at midnight, there was a likelihood that Paul would have given the Red Wolves his location instead of getting the FOX to save him.
“So, you think Agent Michael is lying?”
“I haven’t said that,” Paul corrected. “We just have to properly examine what he says. I’m not the only one suspicious of him. Agent Evelyn who works with Steve on the Red Wolves case has also had reasons to suspect him.”
Tom squinted at the Chairman’s face. “Agent Evelyn? Why does she suspect him?”
It was then Paul realized that he had just made a huge error by mentioning Evelyn. He had so many thoughts running through his head and he was finding it difficult to make decisions. He should have just remained quiet instead. Now he had to think of a good answer to Tom’s question.
The executives were now staring at him suspiciously as it was taking him time to answer.
“Michael always had something to counter these junior agents whenever they gave us reports,” Paul fumbled. “And they always seem to find his counter arguments strange.”
It was obvious the two executives were not satisfied with Paul’s answer but they remained quiet, expecting him to say something more reasonable.
When he didn’t continue after some time, Tom spoke. “So, why is it only you that knows of this suspicion of hers? Besides, they were not supposed to work with you anymore on the case. Agent Mensah should know this instead of you,” Tom paused and turned to Mensah. “Or do you, sir?”
“Not at all,” Mensah shook his head. “Neither Evelyn nor Steve told me this.”
They kept their gaze on Paul again.
“Gentlemen, I trained Evelyn and she sees me as a father here. She just chipped it in during a personal discussion, it wasn’t something official. And I think we should be more focused on finding a solution to Agent Michael abduction’s case,” Paul tried his best to change the topic.
Luckily for him, Tom and Mensah were also not interested in discussing it. So, it saved Paul the problem of thinking of more answers to difficult questions. However, these two senior agents had already received reports of how Paul Edwards and Evelyn were likely both moles in the corporation. So, they weren’t surprised Paul mentioned her. It was only proof that Paul and Evelyn really had something going on.
“We will consider all that you’ve said, Chairman,” Tom said as he got to his feet. Mensah also got up with him. “We will consider all,” Tom reiterated, stressing the ‘all’ this time.
Paul sighed as they stepped out of his office and closed the door. He knew what Tom meant when he stressed the ‘all’. He was saying he would consider his mention of Evelyn. But that was the least of his worries at that moment. His grandson’s abductors were yet to reach out to him and he was already being afraid that something might have happened to the boy.
He picked up his phone to check if he had missed a call or a message but there was nothing of such on his device. Another deep sigh escaped his lips. He buried his face in his palms.
30 minutes later
“Do you have the exact location now?”
“Not yet, Agent Maria is still working on it,” Steve replied.
He was standing in Agent Tom’s office. Agent Mensah was also there, sitting on one of the visitors’ chairs and facing him.
“Agent Steve,” Mensah called. “Did your partner, Evelyn tell you anything about her suspicion of Agent Michael?”
“No,” Steve’s eyebrows gathered together as he shook his head. “Did she say anything like that to you?”
“No,” Mensah shook his head. “We were just considering what you said about her and the Chairman being up to something. I think we’re on the same page with you now. You need to watch her closely and we’ll also watch the Chairman.”
Steve nodded in understanding.
“Make sure you let us know once we get the report from Agent Maria,” Tom said in dismissal.
Steve went straight to Maria after leaving Tom and Mensah. They had spent the last night in his apartment together due to Maria’s safety concerns. There he had explained to her how the investigations were being turned around. And how that Senior Agents Tom and Mensah were also with him now, which meant she no longer had to be afraid of being penalized for working with him.
“Hi, Maria,” he greeted, placing a hand on her table and bending close to her. He stared straight at the desktop screen in front of her. “What’s the progress on the task?”
“You shouldn’t be standing behind me, Steve,” Maria warned. Steve sighed and turned to her front. He sat on the visitor’s seat in front of her table.
“You forgot that we have the executives backing now?” he questioned her.
“No, I didn’t forget. But standing behind me only draws us attention. They’ll think we’re working on something together. And remember that you need to keep this a secret from your team. It won’t be nice if someone starts looking for me again,” she replied with her eyes fixed on the screen and her fingers busy on the keyboard.
“I understand that, Maria. That’s why I waited until there were fewer people in the office,” Steve replied and leaned forward on the table. “So, what have you got for me?”
“I’ve analyzed over a hundred buildings in the estate, still got nothing yet.”
Steve sighed. “We need to get it as soon as possible. The meeting is tonight.”
“I know that, Steve. Ruthernard Estate is a large area. It would have been nicer if we had two more people doing the job with me.”
“You know we can’t have that due to the nature of the task.”
“I’ll let you know once I get it,” Maria replied dryly.
“Please, get it done quickly, Maria,” Steve muttered before getting up to leave.
— —- —-
Paul had just gotten back into his office when his phone began to vibrate in his pocket. He was reluctant to take it out as he had received several other calls within the past three hours and none was from the abductors he was expecting. He didn’t take out the phone until he got to his seat.
His heart skipped a beat as he saw the number of the incoming call. It was from an unsaved number. He took in a deep breath before he answered the call. He placed the phone close to his ear and did not speak.
“Hi, Chairman Paul Edwards,” a baritone voice sounded from the other end.
“Hello,” Paul replied, his heart beating fast now.
“I guess you know why I’m calling already,” the voice continued. “We’ve got your grandson with us and we want you to choose. Do you want him back alive or in bodybags?”
Paul delayed his response. The voice of the caller sounded calm and he also had to sound the same way. He wasn’t going to let his fear of losing the boy make him sound like a coward.
“What do you want from me?” He questioned.
“How much will you give to get your grandson back?”
“He’s my grandson, not a commodity that we should negotiate on,” Paul replied.
“Nice response, Mr Paul Edwards,” the voice replied in a mocking tone. “That means you can give anything for your grandson’s life.”
Paul remained quiet.
“We want you to resign from the office of the FOX Chairman.”
“What?” Paul’s jaw dropped in shock.
“Immediately, Paul. We will wait for two hours to get the news of your resignation. Once we get the news, we will call to tell you where to get the boy,” the voice continued. “If the news doesn’t make headlines in the next two hours, you may get your grandson in a bodybag. I’m sending you a video right now to show you his condition. “
The call ended even before Paul could say anything.
He was still in utter shock as he dropped his phone. He had never thought that the abductors could ever ask him to resign. It seemed more difficult than any other thing they could have asked him.
His phone beeped and he picked it up to check. A video had been sent to his WhatsApp device. He opened the chat and downloaded the video.
At first, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the condition of the abducted boy. Although fastened to the chair he was sitting in, he looked untouched and clean. But as the video continued to show other parts of the room, Paul noticed something wrong. The room looked sealed.
His eyes almost popped out of the sockets as he realized the danger. The boy had a medical condition that could have killed him in the next 30 hours without his drugs. But that room where the boy was would speed up his death. He might end up losing his life in only a few hours.
It dawned on Paul that he didn’t have much time to consider the options. He had to act fast to save the boy.
He pulled out his drawer and picked a pen and blank A4 paper to pen down his resignation letter. But then, he realized that he was going to submit it to the Defense Minister. And the fastest way for the letter to get to the minister was via email. He tapped on his computer immediately and clicked open the browser.
His phone began to ring again, distracting him for some seconds. He glanced at it. Carl Winston was the caller. He closed his eyes and let out a breath. He had almost forgotten that he had promised to update Carl on the situation. Now that Carl was calling, he believed Carl could give him a better solution that would stop him from resigning.
“Hey, Carl. I just got a call from the abductors,” he reported in a trembling voice.
“What did they want from you?” Henry asked from the other end.
Henry was quiet for a few seconds. “They want you to resign from the FOX?”
“Yes, and they want it immediately. They’ve got the boy in a sealed room which is not good for his condition. He’s gonna die in a few hours if nothing happens.”
“How much time do we have?”
“They want the news of my resignation to hit the news in two hours,” Paul replied. “After getting the news, they would call and tell me where to get him.”
“Did Hutton call you?”
“No, I don’t know who it was. I don’t even know if it was from the Red Wolves.”
“Have you tried to track the number?”
“No, I can’t really use the office services because I’m investigating this unofficially. Besides, I don’t think they would be stupid to call with a number that can be traced.”
Henry went quiet again, but this time for a longer period.
“What do I do, Henry? I was about to write my resignation letter when you called,” Paul questioned. The sound of his voice made it obvious that he was desperate for a solution.
“Resign,” he finally answered. “Send in your resignation and leave the office immediately to meet the two hours deadline for the news.”
Paul Edwards’ shoulders dropped in disappointment. He had thought Henry would have a better solution for him.
“I’ll do that immediately,” he sighed.
“Before you send the resignation, make sure you call and ask them to prove that they would indeed let the boy go.”
5 minutes later
Somewhere in Bexford, Bethanna
“They want him to resign?” Dave echoed in surprise. Everyone else in the living room was just as surprised as him.
“Yeah, Paul was asked to resign to save his grandson,” Henry answered. He was standing close to the door and leaning on the wall.
“But that’s strange,” Jennifer remarked. “I thought the goal was to ki*ll them.”
“That could still be the goal,” Samantha opined. “Once he resigns, his legal guards and assistants will be taken away from him. That would leave him more vulnerable to their direct attack.”
“They don’t need to ki*ll him anymore if he resigns,” Maxwell put in.
“Maybe they still need to,” Dave joined. “As long as he lives, the truth lives with him. He could voice it out one day and Hutton won’t want that to happen.”
Henry proceeded towards the centre of the living room from the door. “We have to wait and watch how things evolve. They will call Paul after his resignation hit the news. Then, we will know what other plans they have for him.”
One hour after
The FOX Corporation, Epa Hill
Paul had already sent his resignation letter to the Minister and even confirmed it verbally over the phone. He was now clearing up his office, trying to arrange the files he would hand over.
The door to his office suddenly flung open and Mensah stepped in.
“What the heck is happening, Chairman Paul?”
Paul paused and turned to look at him. “I have to go, Agent. My family needs me now more than ever.”
Mensah walked closer to him, unconvinced with his explanation. “Where’s this coming from, Chairman? Everything was fine until…until after Agent Michael escaped his abduction.”
Paul sighed. “I hope I will be able to explain everything to you someday, Agent Mensah. But I just have to go. I’ll let you know in a few minutes when I’m ready to hand over to you.”
Mensah stared at Paul with unbelief in his eyes. They had been in the FOX for more than 30 years together. And even though there had been suspicions of recent, the bond that had been formed was still there.
He turned and walked out of the office without answers to his confusion. Now that Paul Edwards had resigned, he was the qualified one to take the seat. The defence minister had called to notify him immediately.
75 Minutes Later
Somewhere in Bexford
The news of the FOX chairman’s resignation had spread quickly over the internet. Different news websites had their version of the story. Some said his resignation was due to his failure to tackle the Red Wolves menace while some reported that he was forced by the defence ministry to resign.
A top website pobsonline.com had exclusive information from an anonymous source in the FOX. The agent who had chosen to stay anonymous told the website that the resignation was triggered by the recent kidnap of the FOX executive. The Chairman had decided to throw in the towel before more agents lives were threatened, according to the source.
Henry and his team had also gotten the news and what they waited for was Paul’s call which finally came an hour after the news broke out.
“Hello, chairman,” Henry spoke eagerly into the phone.
“Hey, Carl,” Paul’s voice sounded weak on the other end. “I just finished tidying up and would be handing over to agent Mensah in a few minutes. And the same number just called me.”
“What did they say?”
“I was asked to meet them at a location in Ruthernard estate tonight, eight o’clock. He claimed the boy will be there and asked me to come alone.”
“Please, send me the location,” Henry requested.
“What do you want to do?”
“Trust me, Paul. I won’t do anything to jeopardize your grandson’s safety.”
“I’ll send it immediately after this call.”
“Good,” Henry remarked. “I’ll get back to you before the meeting time.”
Somewhere in Bexford
Hutton Ryker, Kahn, and Chanda were all in a small hall. There were also about twenty other men in the hall. They all stood around a table while Hutton addressed them.
“It has become like a game of strategies now,” Hutton continued, shuffling a deck of 52 cards in his hand. “Paul Edwards must have told Carl Winston about the meeting with us. And Carl must be somewhere now, trying to figure out what our plans are.”
“But there’s no way he has an idea, right?” One of the men asked.
Hutton fixed his eyes on the man.
-At Carl’s End-
Dave, Samantha, Jennifer, and Maxwell were all sitting on the floor now, forming a semicircular shape. Henry was in front of them, like an African aged man telling a group of kids folktale stories.
“Hutton is a man of strategies and there’s no doubt he knows how to play the game well,” Henry drummed his fingers rhythmically on the floor as he spoke. “He knows that Paul must have informed us about the meeting. But he would be confident because we don’t know what his plans are.”
-Hutton Ryker’s End-
“Carl knows we would be ready for him if he tries to come to the venue early. So, he won’t bother showing up. His best plan would be to attach a mouthpiece to Paul Edward’s body and listen from somewhere close by to the venue.”
“We can’t go there beforehand. We will stay close and listen to the conversation Paul has with them in the venue. If we need to intervene, we would.”
“While waiting and listening, we would hit them with a surprise which will make them unable to intervene. Paul would get f***ed terribly and then can’t do anything to help him,” Hutton stated.
“What if they try to step in even with the surprise?” one of the men asked.
“Stepping in is not going to stop Paul Edwards from getting messed up terribly,” Hutton replied with a smirk.
“I’m sure he’s got some surprise for us tonight,” Carl continued. “Whatever that surprise is, we might not be able to stop it. How we react is after his surprise is going to be what matters.”
“Of course, Carl would try to react. He’s intelligent, fast, and dangerous,” Hutton remarked. “But we’ve got an advantage over them; that advantage is they don’t know how our plans nor our goals. And even if they try to guess the plans, we can always change them.”
“Hutton’s gonna give us a good fight but we’ve got an edge that we must use wisely,” Henry stared at the faces of his men, hoping to inspire confidence in them. “We know what his goal is and he doesn’t know we do. And that’s what we’re going mess him up with.”
“The game of strategy begins.”
To be continued