Opic Estate, Ogun State
‘Who is there?’ a man’s voice sounded from behind the gate after the second time of pressing the bell.
Tarasha and the doctor kept mute and waited on hearing the footsteps of a man walking towards the gate.
‘Yes? Good evening, how may I help you?’ a young man said to them through a small space opened at the gate. They could only see his face partially.
‘Good evening sir,’ Tarasha replied. ‘Please, we would like to see those that stay here.’
‘Those that stay here?’ the young man’s brows gathered together. ‘What for please?’
‘I’m a journalist from Desert Reporters and I’m carrying out a survey. I would like to ask the owners of this house some questions.’ Tarasha answered, displaying her identity card for him to see.
The young man scanned through the identity card and stared at the two people for a while, scrutinizing their faces as if he could know if they were saying the truth or not by mere looking at them.
‘Please, wait for me, I’ll be back in few seconds.’ The young man said and walked back into the house. Two minutes later, he returned with an elderly man who opened the gate to see the guests.
‘Good evening sir,’ Tarasha greeted the elderly man first before he could talk.
‘Good evening young woman, how may I help you?’ the elderly man asked, standing in between the opened gate. He noticed the man standing behind her but couldn’t see the face as the man had his back turned to them and was looking at the road.
‘I’m Evelyn Alex sir, from Desert Reporters. I’m here on a survey and I’ll like to ask you some few questions about this apartment.’ Tarasha introduced herself. The gate was opened wider now, but still not wide enough for those outside to see the compound as both men were blocking the open space. Tarasha noticed the resemblance between the elderly man and the young man, she needed no one to make it known that the elderly man was the younger one’s father.
Dr Ekwueme finally turned back to join them in the conversation. He was about to greet the man when he noticed that he was someone he knew. The man also looked at his face at the same time and both stared at each other with their mouths agape in surprise as they tried to remember each other perfectly.
‘Dr Ekwueme,’ the other man was the first to speak out.
‘Dr Francis,’ Dr Ekwueme replied happily and both men moved closer to shake each other’s hands and hug briefly. ‘How have you been doc?’ Dr Ekwueme asked excitedly, patting the man on his back.
Tarasha sighed and shook her head. They had come for a different mission but the doctor seemed to have turned it to a reunion with his friend.
‘I’ve been fine, how about you and your family?’
‘We’ve been doing well too, thanks to God.’ Dr Ekwueme replied.
‘That’s nice to know, please come in.’ Dr Francis said and opened the gate wide enough for them to come in.
Tarasha allowed Dr Ekwueme walk in first and then followed after. She sighed again as she walked behind the doctors who continued chatting even as Dr Francis led them into the house. She wished she had not come to the place with Dr Ekwueme. But she still saw it as an advantage on the other hand because Dr Francis would be more willing to give them an answer to the question they had and even helped them where he could.
‘Your son has grown so big!’ Dr Ekwueme commented, staring at the man’s son who had stayed back to lock the gate and was just catching up with them.
The young man smiled and bowed slightly in respect, also mumbling some words in greeting.
‘Yes, he recently finished studying from the U.K while his younger sister is still in the U.K trying to obtain her masters.’
‘That’s good, I’m sure they are giving you the happiness you used to long for.’
‘Yes, of course.’ Dr Francis replied with a bright smile, remembering several years ago when he and his wife did not get their first child until after ten years of marriage. They got to the front of the big house and climbed up the short steps to the large balcony. ‘Can we sit here and talk?’ the man said, ushering Dr Ekwueme forward.
There were about three sets of tables and chairs arranged at spaced interval in the balcony. They settled at the closest one and Dr Francis asked his son to get refreshments for his guests.
‘So who is this pretty lady we have here? Your daughter I guess,’ Dr Francis said smiling, staring at Dr Ekwueme’s face.
‘Oh! Yea, you can call her my daughter. She’s like one to me,’ Dr Ekwueme replied, flashing a look at Tarasha who was seated beside him. Dr Ekwueme was sitting opposite them at the other side of the table.
Tarasha glanced back at Dr Ekwueme and chuckled at his words but tried her best to conceal it.
‘What have you been up to lately?’ Dr Ekwueme asked his friend.
‘Nothing really since I retired, you know I had interests in some business, so I invested in them after the retirement.’ Dr Francis replied cheerfully. ‘But the investments have been yielding slowly and there’s been nothing really big,’ he paused again and smiled. ‘I know it’s different for you, your hospital is one of the bests in the east.’
‘Come on, that’s what people say.’
‘They say it because it’s true.’
Dr Francis’ son soon returned with a maid and served them fruit juice.
‘Now, let’s get to the reason you are here. We can continue catching up with old times later on.’ Dr Francis said after giving his guests some minutes to have a taste of the juice. He kept changing his look from Tarasha to Dr Ekwueme’s face, wondering who would continue the talking.
Dr Ekwueme flashed a look at Tarasha’s face, expecting her to proceed with the discussion but he met her already staring at him and it was obvious she was expecting him to do the talking. He cleared his throat and fixed his gaze on Dr Francis face.
‘Dr Francis, my daughter here is a journalist who’s on a research. I actually brought her here because this estate is one which I know very well. She selected some few houses with unique designs and your house was selected among them. Incidentally, yours is the first we are visiting. What she actually needs it to know the builders or the civil engineers that constructed the house. They are the ones that would have more answers to give us.’
‘Hmmm,’ Dr Francis tightened his face. ‘Well, I don’t really know the builders of this house, I bought it after it was built.’
‘Oh!’ Dr Ekwueme exclaimed and rested his back like someone that felt disappointed.
‘Sir, isn’t there a way of finding out who did?’ Tarasha put in.
‘Well, there should be a way, but I don’t know that way.’
‘What about those that sold the house to you? Do you still have their contacts?’
‘Hmm,’ Dr Francis squeezed his face more. He closed his eyes briefly, trying to recall. ‘Well, I think I still have the agent’s contacts saved somewhere.’
‘Oh! The agent’s contact information would be nice too.’ Dr Ekwueme said.
‘But I have it written in a contact book somewhere not close by,’ Dr Francis said.
‘Somewhere not close by? How far is this place?’ Dr Ekwueme asked.
Dr Francis smiled. ‘Not far sir, it’s actually in this house but I kept them somewhere very uneasy to reach.’
‘Wow! So, what do we do now?’
‘I’ll just help you search for it,’ Dr Francis offered.
‘Oh! That’ll be nice of you, I appreciate.’ Dr Ekwueme thanked him.
‘Thank you sir,’ Tarasha joined with a smile. She felt her phone vibrate in her pocket at that moment and she took it out.
‘It’s Okay,’ Dr Francis replied. He took out his phone to check the time before rising up to his feet. ‘I think you should come in now and wait while I search for it.’
Dr Ekwueme flashed a quick look at Tarasha, as if to ask for her permission on what to do. From the look on her eyes, he was able to tell that she preferred to remain outside. ‘Well, we wouldn’t mind staying here except you’ll stay in for long.’
‘I don’t think I’ll spend much time, it’s only that you may feel alone.’
‘No, we’d be okay Dr Francis, please go in and check for us.’
Tarasha watched until the man walked into the house before she dialed back the number calling her phone.
‘Cole,’ she said into the mouthpiece as the call was answered.
‘Boss, we have another message from Rex.’
‘What is the message all about?’
‘He has already fixed a time for us to meet with the Vice President.’
Tarasha’s mouth was left agape in surprise, but only for a short moment. ‘What day and time did he fix?’
‘Next tomorrow, 2pm. But he says he would send us the venue and time later.’
‘Okay then,’ Tarasha said, letting out a deep breath. ‘We would have to start preparing for the meeting. How many of your assassin agents have arrived?’
‘Four of them are in Lagos already, I’m expecting three more today.’
‘Okay, tell me once the remaining three arrives. I believe the seven of them would be okay for now.’
42 minutes later**
Dr Francis had returned to the balcony with the house documents which contained the Agent’s name and the previous property owners. The doctor engaged Dr Ekwueme in a conversation while Tarasha went through the documents.
‘I think I even met the Agent through you, or didn’t I?’ Dr Francis said to Dr Ekwueme.
‘Hmm, I don’t think so.’ Dr Ekwueme replied.
‘Yes, I knew him through you.’ Dr Francis replied with more confidence. ‘He came along with you to the Birthday party I celebrated at Beno Hotels.’
‘Oh!’ Dr Ekwueme feigned remembrance. ‘I think I remember that birthday party, the person you’re talking about must be Danjuma’s relative.’
‘Humn… I think he was,’ Dr Francis hummed for a little while, trying to recall. ‘You’re right, he was.’
‘Here, thanks sir.’ Tarasha cut into their conversation, returning the file containing the documents back to Dr Francis.
‘Have you gotten all you need from it?’ Dr Ekwueme asked Tarasha and Dr Francis stared at her face to get the response.
‘Yes, I have written down all details that I needed to write. Thank you sir,’ she ended with a smile.
‘Thank you so much Dr Francis, we’re so grateful.’ Dr Ekwueme put in.
‘It’s my pleasure Doc, it’s nice seeing you again after such a long time.’
‘Yea, I think we do have to exchange numbers so that we can communicate more.’ Dr Ekwueme suggested.
The men exchanged phone numbers and Dr Francis saw the visitors off to their car which was parked outside the compound.
‘What exactly did you pick from the documents?’ Dr Ekwueme asked Tarasha few minutes after they had driven off. Tarasha was driving with the man seated by the right hand side, both had their seat belts on.
Tarasha glanced at the man, she had been expecting him to ask questions.
‘I got the names of the house agent and the name of the Estate Agency.’
‘Don’t I need to see the name of the Agent to confirm if he was really Danjuma’s relative?’
‘His name is Lewis A.G,’ Tarasha replied.
‘Lewis A.G?’ Dr Ekwueme frowned. Tarasha nodded affirmatively. ‘What’s the full for the initials?’
‘I think I saw it somewhere as Andrew George.’
‘Andrew George,’ the man muttered under his breath. ‘The name sounds familiar but I’m not really sure I remember though.’
‘Aren’t you sure anymore that the man was the agent of the house we just left?’
‘I’m sure, he brought the pictures of the houses in that area to me several years ago and told me their prices and location.’
‘Then we only have to find him through the Estate Agency. Even if he has retired or resigned, we should still be able to trace him.’
‘I hope so.’
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‘James, are you spending the night at the quarters with me?’ Chief Elvis Richards asked his son. Both of them were seated at the back seat of a jeep while a security officer was at the front seat with the driver.
‘If you wouldn’t mind sir,’ James replied.
‘Of course, I wouldn’t. I just thought you would like to return this night to where you landed in Lagos.’
‘I don’t mind staying at the quarters if I’m allowed to, the hotel I lodged is far, in Ikeja.’
‘Okay, so what exactly did you say you wanted to discuss with me?’ Chief Elvis asked, repositioning himself on the seat as he stared at his son’s face.
James drew in a breath and also turned slightly sideward to face his Dad.
‘Dad, I know we’ve not really been on good terms and that we quarrel often ever since the day I refused to study medicine in school which you wanted me to. But I’ve got to realize that even though we might have been at constant disagreement with each other, I’ve never been able to stop caring about you.’
James paused to look into his father’s eyes. Chief Elvis also stared him back in the eye, he wondered if he was supposed to feel touched by his son’s surprisingly strange but kind words to him that night.
‘I realized that it is a waste of time to always be at loggerheads with you,’ James continued. ‘I’m saying this all in respect of the developing Samantha Osman’s case against you.’
Chief Elvis heaved a sigh. He knew that his boy could not have changed easily, what the boy needed was just to extract information from him(the father).
‘Dad, it’s not what you’re thinking.’ James said, shaking his head as he realized that his father must already be thinking that he was being self centered. ‘I’m not about to ask you again whether the accusations were true or not, I only want to let you know that I’ll stand by you, no matter what the case turns out to be.’
Chief Elvis could not believe his ears after James finished with the last words. He believed James was never going to agree to be on his side, so he still had doubts.
DAVE JAMES HOTEL ROOM
‘No significant progress today Dave,’ the WhatsApp message from Lizzy popped up on Dave’s phone screen.
He picked up the phone and swiped it open. ‘Were you able to speak or chat with him today?’
‘Yes, I did but only briefly. We talked more via chats, he had time to chat for a long time with me today.’
‘And you didn’t get any useful information from the chats?’
‘No, I got none. He kept on answering my questions with lies.’
‘Please keep me updated.’
‘You’ve got no problem.’
He closed the chat and fell into the bed. He sniffed in the smell of the pillow as he buried his face in it. Then he remembered Stephanie again who liked to play with pillows. An idea struck his mind, he quickly got up and reached for his second phone. He searched out Stephanie’s number and dialed it.
Tarasha walked into the house to meet the rest of the Gang seated in the living room. All their eyes turned to her as she walked into the living room and settled on a sofa. She let out a deep breath and took off the hair wig on her head.
All of them fixed their eyes on her face like they had never seen her before, under the wig she just took off was a new haircut, she had shaved every strand of hair off her head totally. Her face looked funny and got the rest of the assassin gang team laughing, even though they tried to conceal their laughs. She however seemed not to be bothered by them.
‘Hey! Why the skin cut?’ Henry was the only one bold enough to ask and he did in a reprimanding manner.
Tarasha glanced at him and smiled but she said nothing and turned to Cole. ‘Fix a meeting for all seven assassins tomorrow morning by 9AM.’
‘Okay boss,’ Cole said and sprang up to his feet.
‘Make sure you’re back on time to join us for the news time,’ Tarasha said to him before he walked away.
‘You didn’t answer me yet, Omotara.’ Henry spoke again stubbornly.
‘Hey man! Is there anything you need to achieve with the answer I’ll give you to the question?’
‘No, I just want to know. Why did you decide to make yourself look like a big doll?’
Tomi and Dr Ekwueme tried their bests to conceal their laughter at Henry’s description of her but they couldn’t hide it enough, even Tarasha laughed briefly.
‘You will know the reason tomorrow morning, if you’re observant,’ Tarasha replied and turned her focus back to the TV.
To be continue