Tarasha drove unusually slow, for three reasons. Firstly, she was sure that Afo and his guys weren’t after them. The second reason was that she wasn’t with her phone, it had been seized by Afo’s men, so she had no GPS to find the right way home. The third and most important reason was Henry’s unconsciousness, she could not hit the main road that way without confrontation from the police or other security officials.
Tarasha began to notice a bike trailing slowly behind them. Could it be one of Afo’s men who was following them? She thought. Or was it just a coincidence. Henry sneezed twice. Tarasha’s heart was gladdened and she quickly brought the car to a halt at front of a Catholic cathedral.
‘What… happened?’ Henry managed to ask as he sat up. He placed a palm on his forehead as he was suffering from a serious headache.
‘Some passersby came to our aid’ Tarasha lied.
‘Passersby? What about the police?’ Henry asked, joining her at the front seat. He didn’t wait for a reply before he continued. ‘Did they do anything to you?’ He asked taking Tarasha’s palms in his.
‘No’ she replied with a smile.
‘I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you’ Henry apologized with a sorry face but then, he noticed that Tarasha’s attention was divided. She was looking into the front mirror. ‘What’s that?’ Henry peeped to see what she was checking.
‘Nothing’ she covered up with a smile.
‘Are they still following us?’ Henry asked, undeceived by the smile. Tarasha was not listening to him again, her eyes was on someone who was walking into the church compound beside them.
‘Can you give me just a minute?’ She said and opened the door. She stepped out in a hurry and followed into the cathedral’s gate. Tarasha opened the gate slowly and walked in. Her eyes did the searching work, she could see several Reverend sisters walking in and out of the church. She spotted the man who dropped from the bike previously trailing their car. Somewhere by the right side, the man was on the floor with his face buried in his knees. The statue of a mother carrying a baby was right in front of him. She could hear him sobbing as she got closer.
Jefa could feel her approaching, he could hear the silent footsteps in his mind. He knew she would come, his spirit told him so. He turned back to face her with tears in his eyes, their eyes met. Tarasha could not understand what she felt as their eyes met. The man’s eyes communicated so much longing, it seemed that he had just seen something he had been searching for ages.
Tarasha’s closed her eyes and shook her head to wave off the feeling, it could just be a tactic of the enemy. She dipped her hand into her pocket and it touched the knife as she moved closer. A hand touched her shoulder.
‘Evelyn, what are you doing?’ Henry asked, staring at the man weeping few metres in front of her.
‘Nothing’ she turned back to face him, wiggling her hair backwards.
‘Let’s go please’ he took her hands in his and led her back.
‘Are we going back to Elymax?’ She asked.
‘No’ he gave her a surprised look. ‘We’ll go to the police station, then likely to the camera’s security corps house’ Tarasha sighed and followed him reluctantly. ‘I have a business deal to seal tomorrow’
Jefa sniffed in severally as he stared at them walking out. ‘Do they work in Elymax?’ He asked himself, as that was the only thing he got from their conversation. He got up from his knees slowly and followed after them outside the gate, ignoring the Reverend sister who was approaching him.
‘How come you found no one there?’ Sylvester barked at the officers.
‘The signal leads us directly to this place’
‘Maybe you should check again, the location may have changed’ an officer suggested calmly. ‘Or call the number’ another officer offered.
‘The number was not going through the last time I tried to call it’ Sylvester said, attempting to dial the number again.
‘Then you have to locate them again’ ‘It’s connecting now’ Sylvester announced, hushing everyone. He brought out another phone which he could use to determine the location immediately the call was answered.
‘Mr Henry’ Sylvester’s eyes shone brightly as the call was answered.
‘Where are you?’ Sylvester asked, confirming the location on his second phone also.
‘Just find somewhere safe and wait there, we’ll meet you in ten minutes’
9pm Mallam Jefa was still in his sober state when he returned to his store. His eyes were still full of tears as he walked in through the back door. Jefa noticed that there was no one in the store as he entered. All his goods were still intact except for some cups and plates that were displaced and found on the floor. That was unusual. He turned his gaze to the sitting area, it was sure from the look of things that his customers had left the place in commotion and panic. There were bottles of unfinished beer on the floor, unfinished food on the table, and packets of untouched cigarettes. Maybe a fight occurred, he thought. No, it couldn’t be a fight. Some people would have stayed back after settling the fight. Whatever it was, Jefa was less concerned now.
He had just found his long lost sister. He let out a deep sigh as he sank into one of the visitors seat and thronged his head backwards. Omotara had not only maintained the same face she had when she was young, she also maintained the same manner of walking and voice. Only that everything now looked and sounded mature.
*** FLASHBACK ***
May 17, 2014 10pm
Jeffery watched in tears as their house razed in flames, the remains of his parents and two younger brothers burning in it. He and the remnant of his family were put in a large bus with several other kids in it, most of them weeping uncontrollably for the loss of their families too. The bus had no seats except for the driver’s, so the kids were made to sit and lie on the ground. Jeffery eyes met with his younger brother’s where the boy was kept in the same section with his age mates. The lad, who was next after Omotara had no tears in his eyes like the other kids, he just stood still with his arms folded, mouth pouted and a mean face.
Jeffery, as the oldest son felt the need to protect the remaining two left of his younger ones, but how he will do that was a mystery to him. With the mean looking men in the bus with them, he wasn’t even sure of where they were been taken to or what they were going to be used for. Jeffery’s eyes kept wandering around and he found Tara, seated on the floor and soaked in her tears. The blood stains on her clothes were visible and thick enough to make one throw up at the sight. The bus entered a pothole and shook, some of the kids who were standing fell heavily to the floor.
Soon, a rhythmic cry soon begun from the set of younger ones. The terrorists had no problem with the noise, the bus was sound proof.
Jerry was still standing, he didn’t fall like the others, only a few staggers and he was back on his feet. Neither did he learn any lesson and decide to sit even when Jeffery was making signals for him to sit. Jeffery got up and peeped through the window, a knock landed on his head, sending him back immediately. He held his head and winced in pain as he sat back on the floor. He glanced at one of his age mates who sat by his side and was pinching him. The look on the boys face was a question of what Jeffery saw outside.
‘They’ve taken us out of town already’ Jeffery whispered. ‘But I don’t know where they’re taking us to’ After some minutes, the bus came to a halt and the door was opened. Two of the men standing in the bus with them stepped out. Soon, Jeffery could hear the men speaking to some others in Hausa language which he couldn’t understand then. The men returned into the bus after two minutes and began to usher out some of the kids. Jerry was one of the kids taken out of the bus. Jeffery stood up in panic and peeped through the window. The kids were being ushered into another bus, a smaller one.
‘Kai’ was all he heard as his head was hit by the butt of a gun. He began to see stars as he fell slowly to the floor, his eyes met with Omotara’s eyes and then he blacked out. That was the last time he saw his siblings. He woke up several hours later to find himself laying on the floor in a room with other teenagers like himself. He struggled to sit up and glanced at their faces one after the other. He refrained from asking questions, it was obvious that they were all captives of the same terrorist group.
‘Are you crazy?’ A policeman stood at Jefa’s front shouting. Jefa looked up and found himself surrounded by six officers.
‘What?’ He asked.
‘Are you Mallam Jefa, the owner of this store?’
‘Your attention is needed at our station’ the officer said as he brought the handcuffs forward .
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8am, next morning Henry stretched and yawned like a new born baby on the bed. The event of the day before had weakened him so much that he had slept for almost twelve hours, something he had not done in years. He sat up and pressed the button beside the bed and the room was brightened by the white bulb.
Henry’s mouth opened in surprise as he looked around the large room. He had been too tired to notice how large and beautiful the room was when he was ushered in the last night. He never imagined that there was such a well furnished room in the corporation’s quarters.
A phone rang on the stool beside the bed. He picked it up and checked the caller. It was an unsaved number. Who owned the phone and why was it by his side? He wondered. Maybe it was placed there for his use, he thought as he finally answered the call.
‘Good morning Mr Henry’ Sylvester’s voice came through.
‘Good morning sir’ Henry replied.
‘How was your night? Hope you’re feeling better right now?’
‘Yes, thanks. I’m feeling quite better’
‘Alright, I called to inform you that some officers would come and pick you guys for medical check up in twenty minutes time and they’ll likely ask you some questions about yesterday too’
‘But… How will they come pick us for check up in thirty minutes time? I’m just waking up and I’m feeling very hungry now’
‘Your bath water and breakfast has been prepared already. Go and inform your girlfriend about all I’ve said so that she can prepare too’ His girlfriend? Henry wondered as he got up from the bed. He knew that Sylvester was referring to Evelyn as his girlfriend and he smiled at the thought that people were already taking them to be lovers.
He put on a shirt and a short and walked out of his room to the next room where Evelyn slept. He waved at the maids moving around as he faced the entrance of the room. He let out a deep sigh before he rapped on the door and waited for a response. He knocked again after getting no response at the expected time, he leaned on the door and placed his ear to the door to listen if there was any movement in the room. He knocked again, this time louder. Could it be that Tarasha was still deeply asleep?
He placed his hand on the door knob and noticed that it was loose, a sign that the door was not locked. He turned it and opened the door slowly, poking his head in to peep. The room was neat and well kept but no one was in it. He walked further inside and closed the door behind.
‘Evelyn’ he called as he proceeded towards the bed. He checked the floor beside the bed, there was no sign of Evelyn. ‘Evelyn, are you in?’ He called again as he approached the restroom. He opened and entered into it, Evelyn was nowhere to be found. His heart began to beat faster as he proceeded out of the room.
‘Has anyone seen Evelyn this morning?’ He asked the maid cleaning up the living room.
‘The lady you came in with last night?’ The maid asked to be sure. Henry nodded.
‘She should be in her room. She just woke up when I was mopping the passage’
‘When was that?’ Henry asked.
‘About one hour ago, I saw her peeping outside through the door and I approached her to ask if she needed anything. She asked me to make her a cup of hot tea’
‘Is that all?’
‘Yes, I’ve not seen her since I made her tea.’ The maid paused and placed a hand on her waist. ‘Is she not in the room?’ She asked with a raised eyebrow.
‘Yes’ Henry replied as he dialed a number on the phone with him. ‘Join me check if she’s around the house’
Tarasha adjusted her skirt properly in front of the mirror and brushed her hair backwards before putting on the suit jacket. She sat on the bed to put on the heeled shoes and got up to check the mirror again. She was looking smart and ready for the meeting. Her plan was simple. Strike a deal with the man and make him take her to his cotton farm which she had already sent Benny and Cole to survey and fix several possible escape routes for her. She had made her investigation and found out that the only place Jubril Lawal went without his bodyguard and thugs was his farms. That was the best place to end the man’s life without any struggle.
Tarasha sat back in the bed and placed her laptop on her lap, she opened it up and pressed the boot button. After the laptop came on, she opened her contact book and searched for Jubril’s number dialing it on the phone she had taken from the maid’s pocket in the camera’s corporation house.
‘Good morning Mr Jubril’ she said as soon as the call was answered.
‘Good morning Miss Evelyn’ Jubril recognised her voice immediately.
‘What happened to your line? I’ve been trying to reach you’
‘I lost the phone, I had to borrow someone’s phone to call you’
‘Oh! Sorry about that’
‘Thank you sir’ Tarasha said, clearing her throat. ‘I’ll be on my way for our meeting in few minutes time, I just want to…’
‘Humm…’ Jubril interrupted. ‘That’s one of the reasons I’ve been trying to reach you. The meeting would no longer hold this morning’ Tarasha sighed loudly. ‘I’m sorry but I sent something to your email since I couldn’t reach you on phone. My birthday is tomorrow and I’m organizing a banquet in the evening. Let’s meet there, maybe we can finalize our discussion immediately after the celebration’
‘Okay’ Tarasha seemed less enthusiastic.
‘How do I attend?’
‘Just check your email inbox, I’ve instructed my PA to forward every detail to you. I even asked him to organize a personal car that would bring you from your location to the venue’
‘Oh! Thanks. I’ll check my mailbox’ Tarasha said and ended the call. She flung the phone on the bed and bent to take off her shoes. Then she fell back into the bed, thinking. Jubril Lawal’s case had tarried for long, the banquet was going to be a perfect opportunity for her. She began to draw up plans in her mind. She wouldn’t accept his transport plans, No. She would hire a car by herself and Cole would be the driver. …
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to be continued