11:16 AM <<<<<<
“Why were you not answering your calls?” She squinted at him. “You said you would get here five minutes ago.”
“I did, I got here five minutes ago,” Henry replied. “But I had to check around and be sure no one was watching you before I came here.”
“So, no one was watching?” She questioned.
“I didn’t see anyone,” Henry answered. “We can’t be so sure that someone isn’t around.”
Sheila heaved a sigh of frustration. “What are we going to do now? Rex is not calling back. I hope something hasn’t happened to Adrian.”
“It’ll be okay, Sheila,” Henry leaned closer and held her hands, looking intensely into her eyes. “I promise it’s going to be okay. We are going to find Adrian and get him out of there.”
“Are we sure he’s still okay?” Sheila still looked worried. “What if Rex has done something to him?”
“I’m sure Rex wouldn’t do anything to him,” Henry replied. “I’m the target, so I know he doesn’t want to hurt any of you two, he just wants me. Did he mention anything about what he wanted?”
“No, he didn’t say anything. He just wanted me to come here alone, without telling anyone. He specifically instructed me not to tell you. Maybe he discovered somehow that I reached out to you,” Sheila was still afraid.
“There’s no way he could have found out,” Henry reassured. “Don’t worry, you and Adrian will get out of here unhurt.”
Sheila let out a breath and leaned back for a moment. She was pondering on the situation when she suddenly remembered his last sentence.
“What about you, will you leave unhurt?” She quickly turned to him and grabbed his hands again.
“I don’t know,” Henry looked away. “I can’t tell what Rex has got planned out, but I know whatever it is, I am the target. So, the first thing I’m going to do is to make sure that you two are safe.”
Henry let out a breath and then leaned back in his chair. He stared blankly for a moment to think about the situation. Then he remembered seeing Rex on the plane and shooting him. He was sure Rex couldn’t have healed from the gunshot fully yet. And that made him more eager to know why Rex was doing all that he was doing, even while he was unfit.
“Can you try his phone again?” Henry requested. “If he doesn’t answer now, we will have to look for him. I’m sure he isn’t anywhere far from here.”
Sheila took out her phone to try the number again. It still did not connect.
“How do we find him?” She turned to Henry.
Without saying anything, Henry opened the door and stepped out of the car. He walked to the front of the bonnet and looked around the place, with his hands placed on his waist.
Sheila stepped out to join him.
“What are you thinking?” She asked, standing beside him.
“This place is a town among many villages. There are also lots of forests around. Rex is going to be in an abandoned building somewhere in the forest or one of the villages,” He said thoughtfully.
“Any abandoned building in such forests would have been covered with a lot of weeds,” Sheila remarked.
“No, places like these are used as hideouts for the FOX agents and many other undercover security officials. So they’re maintained regularly. He must be in one of those places,” Henry explained
“How do you guys find such places?” Sheila asked.
“We connect with the people that maintain the place or search security resources online.”
“Doesn’t that mean criminals can use these places for their activities too?”
“No, every legal security officer has a code he provides to the keepers. Only those with these codes are allowed to use the place.”
“Okay, can you connect to a keeper right now, so that we can get the location?”
“No, no keeper will give me the location to an already booked place. They’re going to tell me there’s no location here. What I have to do is search,” Henry replied and turned to her. “Is it possible to get satellite images of this area? Maybe any map that can be useful, even if it’s outdated?”
“Yes, we can find one,” Sheila replied.
“Let’s go sit in the car.”
Rex slowed down when he got to a muddy part of the forest. He paused for a second to observe the ground and confirmed his suspicions that Adrian had indeed passed through the place. There were signs of footsteps on the ground. He was sure Adrian could not have gone so far.
He proceeded slowly and soon began to hear some sounds and human voices. After a few seconds, he got to a small open space in the forest where some trees had been caught. There were three men there arranging the pieces of timber into the truck. He hid his gun before stepping into the open space.
It didn’t take much time before he caught the attention of the men. From the way they stared at him, he knew they suspected he had been running through the bushes. There were pieces of wet leaves on his body and mud on his shoes.
For a moment, Rex began to think he had made the mistake of following Adrian through that route. What if the footsteps on the muddy part were for one of the men? Somehow, the expression on the faces of the men as they exchanged glances on seeing him convinced him into believing he was on the right track. They seemed to know something.
“Excuse me, please,” Rex moved closer to them. “Did you see anyone run past this place?”
** One minute ago **
The men were loading the sawed pieces of timber into the truck when Adrian appeared out of the forest. He was going to continue running when he noticed the truck. He quickly proceeded towards the truck and knelt before one of the men.
“Please, I was kidnapped and they’re chasing after me. Let me hide in here,” he pleaded.
The men exchanged glances amongst themselves. Adrian was looking so dirty, and it was obvious that he had fallen so many times in the bush while running. The three men did not utter a word, but agreed amongst themselves and permitted him to hide in the truck. They tried to create space for him to lie in between the pieces of timber already placed in the truck. A few seconds after that was when Rex showed up.
** Present **
“Yes,” one of the men nodded. “There was a guy that passed here now,” he added, pointing to the route that led out of the open space. “We didn’t know why he was running.”
“We did business together and he stole something from me,” Rex lied to see their reactions. They quickly glanced at each other without saying anything. “Thank you,” Rex added before proceeding towards the direction he was pointed.
He got there and stopped at the entrance of the route. The place was still muddy. In fact, there were some small holes of stagnant water there. He checked for footsteps on the floor but couldn’t see any. The only signs he saw were that of the motor tyres. The cleared path of the road was not large enough for the van and one side of the tyres had to pass through the bushes.
Rex turned back, convinced that no one had gone past the place. The men were surprised to see him coming back.
“Are you sure he passed here?” He approached one of the men.
“Yes, he did,” the man replied.
“Okay,” Rex sighed and took a moment to look at their work. “I’m not so sure I can catch up with him if I keep trying to pursue him. But I need to get to town. Since you guys are almost through with loading your truck, can I get to town with you people?”
“Ermm… We would have loved to help you, but the truck has only three seats,” another man answered, walking towards Rex and his colleague with a smile on his face.
“I can manage with you guys, or hang somewhere in the truck,” Rex made a move closer to the truck but one of the men stood in his way.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be enough space for you to hang in there with us.”
“Can we at least check if there is?” Rex insisted and tried to move close to the truck again but the man would not give way.
“I said there’s no space for you, why don’t you just go. We can’t help you.”
“I’m sorry,” Rex smiled and stepped back as if he was resigning to leave. All of a sudden, he took out his gun and pointed it at the men. “I need to check in there now, would you let me check? Or do I still have to force myself?”
The two men in front of him raised their hands in surrender. The third man who was behind the truck on the other side saw what was happening and quickly bent to hide his face. He picked up a piece of wood and began to move slowly by the sides of the mini truck.
Rex proceeded slowly towards the truck while the men took steps backwards. He counted about ten steps till they got to the back of the truck and Henry was quick to notice where Adrian was hiding.
“Get the f**k out of there man,” he slammed angrily.
At the same time, Rex realized that the third man was no longer in sight. It was almost too late when he figured out that the man must be somewhere around trying to make a smart move. He turned swiftly to check his back just at the same moment the man charged towards him with the stick. He was able to dodge the wood strike but got attacked by the three men at the same time.
Adrian seeing the chaos, took it as an opportunity to flee and jumped down the truck immediately.
However, the men were untrained and were not able to keep Rex restrained for long. It took less than a minute for Rex to deal each of them a blow and gain enough space to point the gun at them again. He immediately abandoned the men and followed in the direction Adrian took.
Unfortunately for Adrian, he could not go too far before he slipped and hit his head on a stone due to the slippery muddy ground. Rex caught up with him and found him unconscious.
“What the f*** is happening?” Evelyn widened her eyes at Steve who was standing beside her. They were both live at the press conference venue and had done the job of checking the place to ensure security before the President walked in to have the conference.
“I don’t have an idea,” Steve looked as confused as Evelyn. He faced her and narrowed his gaze at her face. “Is this a part of the plan that you guys did not let me know?”
“I’m as confused as you too, man,” Evelyn replied. “Everything we planned and we’re doing is to ensure that the President stays alive and on his seat. I don’t understand what just happened here.”
They both paused for a moment to listen to the President explain his reasons for stepping down.
“It’s unfortunate that I haven’t been able to keep all my promises to Bethannians, which includes keeping them safe and secure at all times. Under my administration, thousands of citizens have lost their lives unfortunately, the Presidential Villa was attacked, and several beautiful investments and government facilities were destroyed. It is obvious that the government led by me has failed in the area of security which is very crucial to the overall progress of any nation. Today, the Central Bank was attacked again by the assailants. Although our joint armed forces were able to repel the attack, we also lost some of our gallant men.
My decision to step down was greatly influenced by my few days of absence from the seat. I took some time to reflect and noted some of the not-too-good decisions that I’ve made which have affected the nation today. Before I go, I must thank all the law-abiding citizens for the trust they had in me to hand me the mandate, and I’m deeply sorry to disappoint you. The Vice President will take over the affairs of the nation from this time and I trust that he can do better with his intelligence and the experience gained in government over the years. I urged every citizen to give him the support he needs to rule the nation and pray for him to be crucial in taking back our nation from these assailants. Once again, thank you for the opportunity to be your President. God bless you.”
After that, the President picked up his files and headed out of the conference hall, ignoring questions from the journalists.
“This is absolute bullshi*t!” Steve cursed in utter disgust.
“I think there’s something more to this,” Evelyn remarked thoughtfully. “Something else is influencing his decision.”
“Something like what?” Steve turned to her.
“I don’t know, but he couldn’t have just changed his mind all of a sudden. This morning, we had a different plan with him and he seemed very okay with it until now. We don’t know what happened behind closed doors.”
“To hell with whatever happened, Eve. This man is a total assh*le and does not even deserve our protection.”
The FOX Corporation,
“What the heck is going on?” Mark cursed after listening to the President announced his decision to step down.
He was as stupefied as all other agents that watched the Press conference with him in the operation control room. He felt his knees buckle and had to quickly find a seat to settle down. His heart was beating so fast. He had only been the FOX Chairman for less than a month and he was already feeling like he was going to have a heart attack.
He was so lost in thoughts that he did not quickly notice the agent trying to get his attention.
“Sir… Chairman sir…”
Mark finally jerked out of his thoughts and looked at the agent standing in front of him.
“You have a call from Henry, sir,” the agent said, handing over a phone.
“Thank you,” Mark collected the phone and got up from his seat. He answered the call as he proceeded out of the control room. “Hey, Mr. Paul.”
“Mark, why did the President just step down?” Paul Edwards asked from the other end.
“I have no idea why he did that,” Mark replied, walking to the closest restroom. “He agreed to go with our plans this morning.”
“What happened this morning before he was escorted back to the office?”
“Nothing unusual happened before he left, but we can’t tell if anything happened when he got there. Steve and Evelyn have not reported anything strange to me.”
“So, why in the world did he change his mind all of a sudden?”
“I can’t tell, but I’m going to find out soon,” he replied as he stepped into the restroom.
“Do that quickly and get back to me. I’m going to keep this information from Carl until I find out what went wrong.”
The call ended and Mark put the phone back into his pocket. He proceeded to ease himself before returning to the control room.
He took almost five more minutes to ponder on the situation before he picked up his phone to call the President.
The President walked into the living room to meet the Vice President welcoming him with a smile.
“Trust me, your Excellency, you’ve done the right thing,” the Vice who had now turned Acting President smiled at the man who had just handed over to him.
The President got closer to him and stared him straight in the eyes. “Whatever you’re doing is going to fail, Jerry. You will fail.”
“Come on, man. Stop being so bitter, at least for the sake of the country that you claim to love. You should wish me well and stop acting like a sissy,” the acting President made a mocking frown.
“You’re gonna fail, Jerry,” the President added before walking past him.
The acting President chuckled and turned with a serious face. “Please, prepare the necessary documents to formalize your resignation and make the handover quick.”
He turned back again to see more security agents entering. Two of the security agents – Evelyn and Steve came closer to him – staring at his face in anger. They had seen the two men converse and knew the President’s stepping down was a result of something the Vice President must have done.
“Hey, FOX men. I’m glad to see you two here,” the Vice President said with a cocky smile. They both replied to him with blank expressions and were about to walk away when he spoke again. “Hey, you,” he called, focusing on Evelyn with his squinted eyes which made it look like he had just remembered something. “Weren’t you the FOX official who was arrested in connection to the President’s presumed death?”
Evelyn stared at him in silence without any intention to reply.
“How the heck did you get out of jail?” he asked in a tipsy tone.
“As you can see, the President is not dead,” Evelyn replied in an angry tone.
The VP chuckled. “Yeah, that’s true. But if you were suspected of giving out the location to the Red Wolves, you should still be in prison.”
Evelyn remained silent. She didn’t understand what game the man was trying to play and decided that saying nothing else was best.
“Let’s get out of here,” Steve whispered to her ear and grabbed her gently by the arm.
“Where are you going to? I thought you guys were here to offer special protection to the President. Now that I’m the President, you should remain here to protect me,” the VP jested.
“Our work here is done,” Steve replied. “Please, direct your grievances to the FOX Chairman,” he added before turning to leave with Evelyn.
Acting President Jerry laughed as he watched them walk away. He enjoyed the look of defeat and confusion in their eyes when they spoke to him.
The President’s step down had come as a shock to everyone, including himself. It was a part of Hutton’s master plan which he had told no one about. The VP had only gotten the idea of the step down from Hutton after the President called the emergency Press Conference which took place fifteen minutes after. Whatever Hutton did to achieve that, he had no idea, and neither was he interested in knowing. All he was after was seeing the President hand over power to him which had just happened.
The FOX Corporation,
It was until the third time of dialling the President’s number that Mark had his call answered.
“What the heck is happening with you, President Arthur?” Mark asked impatiently.
The other agents turned all their eyes on him, interested in the conversation, even though they could not hear what was being said from the other end.
“Nothing is happening, dear Mr Mark. I’m packing up and preparing the necessary documents to facilitate the transfer of power.”
“What the heck! This isn’t what we agreed man. We didn’t go through the stress of saving you from getting killed for you to cause more problems for us.”
The President was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry for what this has cost you, Mark. I’m truly sorry, but I had to do it.”
“Why did you have to do it? That’s what I want to know?”
“We don’t have to go through all that, Mark. I didn’t have a choice. Now, I think you have to focus on getting your job done and making sure we do not lose this country to the hands of Jerry and the Red Wolves.”
“F**k you, man. You just created a mess by handing them the country and you’re asking me to focus on stopping it?” Mark could no longer control his anger and didn’t stop himself from insulting the man. Besides, he was no longer the country’s President. “Why did you do it? Has Hutton threatened to hurt your family? Or does he have your goddamn nudes?”
“I’m sorry for everything, man. I wish you the best.”
“Damn it!” Mark cursed as the call ended without him getting the opportunity to talk again.
He got up from his chair and paced about for a brief moment. Then he settled back on the chair and dialled Agent Steve’s number.
“Arrest Ex-President Arthur and bring him to the FOX office right away,” Mark ordered. “We’re charging him for conspiring with the Red Wolves.”
“Yes, sir,” Steve replied at the other end.
Immediately after the call ended, Mark received another call. It was from Paul again.
“I’m impatient, man. What the hell is happening there?”
“Yet to understand the situation. I strongly believe that Arthur was forced to step down, but I don’t know why. I’ve ordered for his arrest, and we’re going to make him tell us the reason he stepped down.”
“This messes everything up, man. The Red Wolves are in charge of the country now, and will soon be in charge of the FOX Corporation again. We’re back to square one.”
“Not just back to square one, we’re back to a worse state. We need to find a solution to this quickly. I think you should withdraw all your men over there and come to the FOX. We must plan together.”
“I called them already,” Paul replied. “But I don’t think the FOX Corporation is a good place to meet right now. We don’t know how much longer we have before Hutton Ryker comes to take over the FOX again. It would be disastrous if he meets us planning there.”
“Okay, you’ll have to give me some time to finish up here and also interrogate the President after they bring him to the office.”
“You should bring him over here for the interrogation,” Paul advised.
At the House Paul dropped the phone on the footstool beside him and heaved a sigh of frustration. He picked up his phone again after a few seconds and dialled a number to connect with Henry but it was now switched off.
He had different thoughts running through his mind and they all pointed to the looming failure of the group. The President stepping down was the key factor that changed the whole thing and he couldn’t see any way out of the mess.
After some minutes of thinking silently, he incidentally turned back to see Sarah sitting at the dining table with a grocery bag in her hand. That was when he remembered they were supposed to go to the grocery store together. She needed to get items to prepare meals for the team.
“I’m so sorry, Sarah,” he got up and turned. “I forgot.”
“It’s okay, I completely understand,” Sarah replied. “I didn’t want to bother you. I could go to the store alone if you think that’s fine.”
Paul considered letting her go alone but then he suddenly imagined her being kidnapped at the grocery store. That would cause a lot of problems between him and Henry.
“No, it’s not safe for you to go alone,” he stopped her. “I’ll just go in to change my shoes and I’ll join you in a minute.”
Samantha got into the car and put on her seatbelt before closing the door. She adjusted the rearview mirror and sighed after a few seconds of staring at her face before readjusting it again. Then she took out her phone and dialled Dave’s number.
“Hey, man. Where are you?” She said into the phone after the call connected.
“About to leave for the lodge, where are you?” Dave answered.
“I’m leaving too,” Samantha replied. “But don’t you think this is a little bit strange? Everything has just gotten messed up already.”
“Yes, it is, but we’ve got to find a way to sort it out.”
“I hope we do, see you when we get back,” she sighed and ended the call.
She turned on the car engine and looked into the rearview mirror once more. She was about to look away but then noticed a car some distance behind her. For some reason, the car looked suspicious. She turned back to look at it again.
There were two men sitting in the front seat of the car but it was too far to see their faces closely. She took in a deep breath and shook her head to discard all thoughts of fear from her mind. A few seconds after, she turned and got on the road.
Five minutes into the trip, she noticed the car again. This time, in the side mirror. Now, she was convinced that these men were after her. She picked up her phone to warn the others.
45 Minutes after
At the house
“Are the other men back?” Mark asked as Paul opened the door.
“Not yet, only Steve and Evelyn have arrived,” Paul replied. “Please come in,” he held the door open for the man to step in and then closed the door.
“Where’s Steve and Evelyn?”
“This way,” Paul led Mark towards the room where Steve and Evelyn kept Arthur.
“Good afternoon, sir,” Steve and Evelyn saluted as Mark stepped into the room.
Mark replied silently and then gestured for them to take off the blindfold and ungag the man.
Arthur forced out a breath after the piece of cloth was removed from his mouth. He was still tied to the chair.
“Is this a kidnap or an arrest?” he questioned, looking directly at Paul’s face.
“Call it whatever you want, man, but we’re certainly not letting you go until you explain what happened today,” Mark threatened.
“There’s nothing to explain,” Arthur gasped and shook his head. “I did all the explanation in the Press Conference. I stepped down because I’ve been unable to keep the citizens safe.”
“Stop acting dumb man,” Paul said angrily. “If this is about the safety of the country, why would you hand over to Jerry who is a part of the Red Wolves?”
Arthur remained silent.
“You gotta talk man, or I’ll ki*ll you myself,” Mark moved closer with a serious look on his face.
Arthur could sense that Mark was serious about the threat. “If you’re going to question me, I need my lawyer and I need to know I’m being questioned by the FOX.”
“F**k you, Arthur, and f**k the FOX. You just put the FOX into the hands of the Red Wolves. So if you really want to know, this arrest is unofficial. You can call it an abduction and believe me when I say you’re going to regret not telling us everything we need to know.”
“You’re sounding so desperate, Mark. This is not you.”
“You ruined all our plans and made me so desperate, Arthur,” Mark moved closer and squatted before him, staring intently into his eyes. “Trust me, I’m going to make your death slow and painful. You’re going to wish you died in the Red Wolves’ hands instead.”
“I was left with no choice but to step down,” Arthur mumbled.
“But that wasn’t the case when we saw this morning, you were going to follow through with our plans and I kept two of my best men with you to protect you. Only for you to put them in danger again by handing over the country to the Red Wolves.”
“That wasn’t the case until the Central Bank was robbed,” Arthur let out in a frustrated tone. “It all changed after the robbery.”
“What the f**k changed?” Mark got up with a frown. He stared at Paul’s face as if to ask him if he understood what Arthur was talking about.
“It wasn’t a robbery, Arthur. It was a failed attack. Our men and the military stopped the attack,” Paul moved closer.
Arthur closed his eyes for a moment and then dragged in a breath. “There was a robbery. Something was stolen from the vault, from box 114.”
“Nothing was stolen from the bank today, I confirmed it,” Paul countered.
“You’re wrong,” Arthur seemed sure. “The Red Wolves accessed that box and got the content.”
“That can’t be true,” Paul argued and took out his phone. He dialled Maxwell’s number and put it on speaker phone. “Hey, Max. How soon would you get here?”
“Not so sure,” Maxwell replied from the other end. “It looks like we’re being followed. We don’t know who’s following us.”
“F***!” Mark moved closer to the phone. “Send me your location. I can still get the FOX to help you right now before the Red Wolves take over the organization.”
“Don’t bother about us, Maria contacted the FOX already. We have help on the way,” Maxwell replied.
“Maxwell, was anything stolen from the bank today?”
“No, nothing was stolen. The soldiers repelled the attack.”
“Something was stolen man,” Arthur shouted from his seat. Paul moved the phone closer to him. “The content of my box 114 was taken.”
“I don’t think so,” Maxwell argued.
“What the heck is the content of this box?” Mark asked.
Arthur stared at his face for a while. “My secrets, my dirty secrets that could ruin my family and not just me. I got a call from Hutton asking me to step down or risk having the content let out to the public. I couldn’t let my family go down because of me.”
“Damn it! Maybe Hutton was just bluffing. The attack at the bank was repelled. The assailants didn’t even get close to the vault,” Paul voiced and brought the phone closer to himself again. “Are you certain that nothing was stolen?”
“Yes, I am. We were watching all…” Maxwell suddenly paused. “Sh*t!” he cursed after a moment. “They f**king tricked us. I think someone else could have reached the box while the network was jammed. We couldn’t watch for some minutes then.”
“But you said the assailants did not get to the vault,” Mark frowned.
“It wasn’t the assailants,” Mark replied. “Someone else penetrated the harmless visitors must have done. They tricked us into thinking they came for the attack. I think the box was the target.”
Somewhere in Bexford
“Looks like everything is finally falling in place, yeah?” Kahn remarked as he rolled his wheelchair into the balcony, joining Hutton who was smoking there.
“Not everything,” Hutton placed his elbows on the rails and turned to look at Kahn. “But most things are falling in place.”
“So when are you going back to the FOX?”
“When more things finally fall in place,” Hutton replied. “Our men have got eyes on Carl Winston’s men at the moment. Florence Brown is also getting closer to Rex’s location.”
“Are we sure we can take down Carl and his men this time?”
“There’s no way to be sure,” Hutton took a long drag of the cigar. “But we’re really close this time. In the next two or three hours, at least five of Carl Winston’s men will be dead. Then we’ll focus our energies on Carl. There’s no going back now.”