Jumoke couldn’t find Tarasha when she woke up. Tarasha had disappeared from the apartment completely with her bag without leaving anything behind. There was nothing suggesting that someone had left the apartment that morning as the doors were firmly locked from inside and the lock was still intact. There was only one person who leaves her house that way, Dave. Though he claimed to have a spare key to her lock, Jumoke had never seen it with him on any occasion.
She thought for a moment that Dave could be an Assasin like Samantha Osman. Dave’s movements were always suspicious and he had no sensible explanation for them. But the difference was that he had gotten into the hands of the police several times but was always released under twelve hours.
Jumoke slipped off her night down and undies as she reached for her towel. She needed to have a quick bath even though she wasn’t rushing anywhere, it was her off day at the hospital. She fastened the towel around her chest and walked into the bathroom. As she entered, she noticed that Tarasha had taken her bath before leaving.
It took her some few minutes to finish her bath. She wiped her body dry as much as possible with the towel and flung it to the bed. Her eyebrows gathered together as her eyes met with something beside the point the towel landed. She moved closer slowly and picked up the piece of paper which had a short message written on it. It read, ‘Erase me and whatever you saw about me completely off your mind.’
Her heart skipped a beat as she read it, she squeezed the paper in her hand and dropped it.
The sounds of people entering into the ward was what woke Stephanie the next morning. She opened and closed her eyes again, Dave’s instruction echoing in her head again.
She sat up and stared about the place with a confused look on her face, then she placed her gaze to the men marching towards her.
‘Steph,’ James was first to speak among the men.
She stared at him thinly. ‘How did I get here?’ she directed her question to James.
‘It’s okay Steph, are you feeling very okay now?’ James replied purposely ignoring her question.
She refused to respond to his remarks and faced the doctor who was turning to the other side of the bed.
‘Miss, you were kidnapped by a group of bandits and you were rescued by the police some days ago,’ the doctor gave an explanation. ‘Don’t you remember how they kidnapped you?’
Stephanie stared away from the doctor’s face back to James as if to confirm if what the doctor said was true.
James took in a deep breath and held her palm in his, without saying a word.
‘You must have hit your neck on something hard and that’s why you have that at the back of your neck,’ the doctor said pointing to the bandage part on her neck. ‘You also hit your head against something and that’s responsible for you not remembering easily but I believe that you’ll remember everything soon.’
‘Inspector James, is that true? Was I really kidnapped?’ she turned to James.
‘Yes, you were. Don’t you remember at all?’ James narrowed his look in pretense.
Stephanie looked away from him again to the doctor, then she scanned the faces of the other men in the ward. She lingered for more on meeting Inspector Mac’s eyes, he didn’t look convinced that she had really lost her memory. She moved her gaze away to the others and finally rested it on James’ face. She could recognize them all except one, Agent Tim but she continued acting the ‘script’ Dave had given her.
‘Can I go home now?’
‘No miss,’ the doctor was the one who answered. ‘We still have to keep you for some hours or days more.’
‘Natashay tried to reach you some hours ago,’ someone cut in. It was Inspector Mac, he pushed his way forward until he got face to face with Stephanie. ‘She tried to reach you but we stopped her,’ Inspector Mac added.
Stephanie almost fell for the trap and wanted to challenge him for stopping Natashay from reaching her, then she remembered Dave’s conversation with her and how he warned her that questions could come in a tricky manner.
‘Who is Natashay?’ she finally replied like an ignoramus to the disappointment of Inspector Mac.
‘She’s fine now,’ he said, nodding his head while staring at her face and stepping back slowly.
‘The medications worked,’ the doctor said flashing his teeth.
‘Worked well enough not to have a side effect,’ James commented.
‘Good morning Cole, you seem to have rested well overnight’ Rex remarked as he walked into the room where Cole was sleeping on the floor. He was putting on different clothes from the one he had on the day before but he still had chains on his hands and feet.
He struggled to sit up and rested his back against the wall while Rex drew a short stool and sat on it.
‘I instructed them to allow you have a bath yesterday night and ensure you have a nice supper, hope they took to my instructions?’ Rex asked.
Cole found himself staring at the eyes behind the mask again but quickly cautioned himself on remembering what happened the last time he was caught. He nodded his head in response to Rex’ question.
‘I did all that to give you enough strength to think and come up with a good decision,’ Rex said and smiled wryly. ‘Now I want to know if you’re ready to work with us.’ he stopped and folded his arm, staring at Cole’s face for an answer.
‘You said you’re offering me something better, I need to know what the deal is before I agree to work with you.’ Cole replied, trying his best to sound confident.
‘I wanted to put you on a salary but I changed my mind since your services would only be needed on short term.’ Rex said. ‘I’ll pay you double of what you agreed with Stainless if you provide helpful information for us.’
‘What about my parents?’ Cole asked.
‘They’re safe and sound,’ Rex answered briefly.
‘Have they been released?’
‘They will be, after the completion of the deal.’ Rex answered.
‘Hmm…’ Cole frowned, he wasn’t happy about the condition. ‘How am I sure you’ll do as you say?’
‘You don’t need to be sure, you just have no choice than to accept it because there won’t be better off if you don’t. They’ll probably get skinned alive,’ Rex said in an evil tone to annoy Cole.
Cole clenched his fists in anger, shooting a furious look at Rex. ‘I’m in,’ he snarled.
‘You’re in?’ Rex gave an evil smile and rose up slowly. He chuckled as he wiped his lips with his finger. ‘Your parents die the day you try to play smart and the rest of the deal will be terminated.’ Rex said in a concluding tone and was about to turn out.
‘Excuse me, I have a request.’ Cole called him back. Rex stopped at the door and turned slowly.
‘When are you going to take this off my hands and legs?’ Cole asked, referring to the chains. ‘I’m working with you now,’ he added with a raised eyebrow.
‘It’ll be only taken off when you need to work, ‘ Rex answered him.
Cole felt disappointed and his shoulders dropped. Rex was about to turn back to the door when he made another request. ‘I want to get part of the payment before we proceed.’
‘You said you have just a request,’ Rex snarled at him.
‘I think this second one is more important,’ Cole replied.
‘You’ll have half payment,’ Rex said and opened the door. ‘I’ll be back in one hour,’ he added and slammed the door behind him.
Cole heaved a heavy sigh as Rex walked out. This was his death and the death of his parents staring at his face and the only way he could stop it was by betraying Tarasha.
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Dressed in a pull over with the hood covering his head and his cap still worn under, Henry noticed a taxi stop in front of the gate. He stopped and watched from where he was. A lady with Omotara’s stature stepped out of the cab and waited till the cab drove away before proceeding towards the gate. She looked left, right and back before sliding in her card. The gate opened for her and she worked in.
Henry was sure it was Omotara but he was surprised because he wasn’t expecting her to return so soon and without any notice. She didn’t even come with anybody or any bag, all she had in her hand was her tablet device.
He hurried to the gate and also slid his card into the lock, he hurried in with the polythene bag which contained the breakfast he had gone to get.
Omotara was already seated on a stool in the living room when he entered, she had taken off her jacket and was taking off her inner singlet as he approached her slowly from behind.
‘Where did you go?’ she startled him with a question.
He stopped and rushed in a short breath. ‘I… I went to get breakfast,’ he finally said after stammering for few seconds.
‘What about your pullover and cap? Why take them off so quickly?’ she added two more questions.
‘Ermm…’ Henry stammered again wondering how she knew what he was putting on before he entered. He had taken them
‘I saw you when I stepped out of the taxi,’ she spoke as if she could read his mind, flashing a look at him.
For the first time, Henry noticed the dressed wound at her back. He moved closer in concern, temporarily forgetting that she had asked him a question.
‘What happened to you?’ he asked, watching her while she tore off the wound dress. He saw the bare surface of the wound and stared keenly, he’d never seen such before but he knew at once that it must be a bullet wound.
‘There’s a box in my room, by the left side of my bed. Can you get it for me please?’ she asked humbly, stretching forth her key to him.
Henry was slow in collecting the key as his gaze was still fixed on the wound. He took it with shaky hands and returned to the living room two minutes later with a small rectangular box.
‘Thank you,’ she said as he dropped it in front of her and squatted, staring deep into her eyes.
‘How did you get shot?’ he asked her in l low tones.
She stopped at opening the box and stared back at him. ‘How do people get shot?’ her calm tone changed into an unfriendly one. ‘A gun was fired and the bullet entered into my back.’
‘I mean who shot you and how did it happen?’ Henry asked, refusing to take offence even though he knew she wanted to deliberately offend him.
‘Henry, what do you need those details for?’ she asked, staring at his face.
‘Well, I just wanted to know.’ he shrugged.
She stared at his face for some seconds and then stared blankly at the wall. ‘I was shot by the same person who killed Aisha,’ she returned her gaze to his face. Her eyes was clouded with tears, ‘She took the bullets for me and died in my stead.’
‘And who was the person?’ Henry asked with so much compassion in his voice.
‘His face was masked, I didn’t see it.’ she replied and sniffed in after.
Henry placed his knees on the ground and held her face in his hands, a tear rolled down her left cheek and she pushed his hand away to wipe it off.
‘Can you help me dress the wound? I had to remove the other because it was dirty.’ she requested from him.
‘I don’t really know how to do that, he replied, getting up from his knee.
‘Just follow my instructions and do all I say, ‘ she replied. She opened the box and began to take out all that was needed for dressing the wound.
Cole had been allowed to take his morning bath and had been served breakfast. A chair, table and mattress was taken into the room he slept but he still had the chains on his hands and feet even though he was seated on the table. Everything around was boring to him. Except for the fate of his parents, he felt like dying instead of betraying Tarasha. But he became more scared as he thought of what had befallen Aisha and why they killed her. Maybe she tried to play smart also. Or maybe Rex was lying and Aisha was safe and sound.
His mind was filled with thoughts and different questions. He had noticed the reduction in the number of boys around the house and the absence of Don. For a moment, he thought that Tarasha’s presence could have caused the absence of Don and the other boys but his uncertainty about it left him undecided as to whether to betray Tarasha or just hold on till she comes to his rescue.
Cole was distracted from his thoughts as the door flipped open. Rex came in, dressed in shiny black jacket and pants. He walked straight to where Cole was seated and took out a key from his pocket. He unlocked the chains from Cole’s hands and legs.
‘It’s time to work,’ he said as he dropped the chains on the floor and stepped back. ‘Follow me.’
Cole stood up and stretched, he felt so free now that his movement was unrestrained with the chains but still felt enslaved because he now had to obey Elvis’ order.
To be continued