‘Good morning sir,’ Steve greeted in a hoarse voice as he entered into the office.
Mr Sylvester raised his head and rose to greet his guest. ‘Good morning Mr Steve,’ he replied, offering him a handshake. ‘Please have your seat.’
‘Thank you, Mr Sylvester.’ Steve said as he settled into the visitor’s seat.
‘I hear you’re a personal investigator and you need our help on a case,’ Mr Sylvester said.
‘Yes, I do need to access your database and get some really old footages.’
‘Can I know the firm or agency you work for?’ Mr Sylvester requested.
‘Oh! Yes, sure.’ Steve said, still trying hard to maintain his hoarse voice. He took out an identity card from his pocket on his shirt and displayed it to the man.
‘Ermm… Okay,’ Mr Sylvester said after examining the card for about twenty seconds. ‘Your agency is a new one, I believe but I can see the Nigerian Security registration seal on it.’
‘You are right, it’s a new agency.’ Steve replied him with a smile.
Mr Sylvester was not smiling. The look on his face turned from straight into a frown.
‘Is there any problem?’ Steve asked, noticing the change in Mr Sylvester’s demeanor.
‘No, there’s no problem.’ Mr Sylvester said, trying to cover up with a smile. ‘It’s just that I feel like you’re someone I’m familiar with and your…your voice,’ he paused. ‘It’s sounds like someone’s who has worked here before.’
‘Oh!’ Steve chuckled. He looked a bit shaken. ‘That’s strange.’
‘Yea, strange indeed. Anyway, I think we should go straight to the reason you’re here.’
‘That’s right. I’m here to get some footages caught in 2028,’ Steve said.
‘Oh! That’s quite some work to do,’ Mr Sylvester’s eyes widened. ‘The footages for what place do you need exactly?’
‘The place is Helpers Street in Gwagalada.’
‘Yes, Helpers Street. There was a murder that happened there in 2028.’
‘Well, you’re lucky. Helpers Street is one of the first places the NSCC had their cameras in Gwagalada, so it’s certain that we should have what you require.’ Mr Sylvester said with a brief smile which was quickly replaced with a straight face. ‘But there’s a problem.’
‘What problem sir?’
‘All our staffs are occupied right now and your request would take a very long time to process, I don’t think any of our workers can afford to spare so much time now.’
‘Well, sir. I think I can work it out myself. All I need is be given access to the database here and I’ll be able to do it on my own. You may just need to put me under close observation for trust issues.’
‘I’m not really sure you can handle our system, Mr Steve. It takes a lot more than just cutting and matching up clips and videos.’
‘Sir,’ Steve said with a smile and paused, placing his hand on Mr Sylvester’s table. ‘I specialize on programming Security camera apps. That’s my main responsibility in the firm where I work.’ he explained, bringing out his Identity card again for the man to see the position he held in his firm.
Mr Sylvester confirmed from the ID card and let out a breath. He placed a stern look on Steve’s face and relaxed back briefly in his swivel, folding his arms and then sat upright again almost immediately. ‘Mr Steve, that’s not the only problem we have.’ he began to explain with a sad look. ‘You’re well aware that this commission is a government funded one and the government is not interested in providing free services to the private commissions. Even our operations here are underfunded. So, I’m sorry to tell you that we don’t have all the softwares you require for it. They cost quite some cash and the government is not ready to fund us yet.’
‘Sir, I’ve got all the softwares I need with me. I don’t need to use any of your materials or funds from the government. This operation is funded by my agency,’ Steve explained.
‘Oh! So all you need is access to our system, right?’ Mr Sylvester put in.
‘That shouldn’t be anything difficult,’ Mr Sylvester said, rolling his chair backwards. He rose to his feet and picked a key on the table. ‘Please, come with me.’ he said and motioned towards the door, he opened it for Henry to step out first and followed after.
Thirty minutes later
Henry was uncomfortable for the first few minutes he used in the computer room, he could feel the eyes of his former colleagues piercing through him as they watched while he worked. He was very careful enough to keep the voice tube under his tongue without letting it slip up at anytime and with the his manual attempt of using another voice, it was certain that they wouldn’t be able to recognize his voice. But Henry still had the fear of being caught in his mind, especially when any of them stares at him for long after he spoke.
Mr Sylvester was the first to leave him in the computer room and fifteen minutes later, another followed. Dayo, the last person still waited for about ten minutes more before he left also.
Henry added more to his speed after the last man left, he wished he would finish before any of them returned. He knew they couldn’t leave him alone for long there. There were a couple of software disks on the table which Henry had installed in the presence of the NSCC men but he had not installed the most important one required for his own mission. The ones he installed in their presence was for retrieving footages of several years past from the virtual storage world. He took out a CDX disk from his bag and slipped it into the disk space on the CPU. The disk was read and the software installation process began in less than twenty seconds. Henry kept staring back at the door anxiously, hoping that no one would enter at that time.
The whole software package installed in one minute and he ejected the software disk before he clicked the command to run the installed program on the system. He put the disk into the jacket and put it back into his bag.
The application he opened on the system had finished booting and needed a registration process before he could continue. The door flung open at that moment and Henry quickly minimized the application.
Without closing the door, Mr Sylvester walked straight to him briskly and stopped by his side. He adjusted his glasses and stared at Steve’s face for a second, then he turned his gaze to the system screen. Someone else entered from behind and closed the door.
‘That software you installed, the last one.’ he began in a serious tone. Fear gripped Henry’s heart at once, the men could have found out about his installation of the software whose kind was prohibited and should not be installed in any of their systems. Mr Sylvester’s hand reached for his mouse and he moved the cursor to the task bar, the app Steve was previously using had disappeared from the bar.
‘I’ve installed lots of applications today sir,’ Steve put in, looking up at Mr Sylvester’s face.
‘Yes, I know but he told me about one you just installed.’ Mr Sylvester said, looking towards Dayo who stepped forward.
‘Yes, I saw something like FRCappers, from the description I saw on the system, it’s a software for automatically collating and joining videos where the same items are spotted.’
‘Oh! That?’ Steve heaved a sigh of relief. ‘It’s here,’ he took the mouse from Mr Sylvester and maximized a window.
Mr Sylvester and Dayo watched intently while Steve took them on a quick survey of the app.
‘Wow, wow, wow!’ Mr Sylvester exclaimed at the end of the quick survey. ‘We need this here,’ he continued. ‘Henry E.G was working on developing one for us when he was here. Who developed this or where did you get it from?’
‘Ermm…’ Steve stammered as the question caught him unawares. ‘I don’t really know,’ he said, scratching his palm gently as he tried to come up with a lie. ‘I think they got it from the US.’
‘You are not sure? I thought this was your main responsibility in the agency you work,’ Mr Sylvester questioned, raising a side of his lips.
‘Ye…Yess, Henry stammered. ‘I didn’t order for this myself, my direct boss did it.’
‘Oh! So, how do we get it for our system? We need it here also.’
‘I don’t know how much it is but I can find out for you,’ Steve offered.
‘Please do, I’ll like to get a feedback on it before you leave. I believe you can make a call to settle it,’ Mr Sylvester said. He continued to stare in awe at the interface of the application.
‘I’ll do that sir,’ Steve said. He waited a while with his hand on the mousepad before speaking again. ‘If you won’t mind sir, I’ll like to do some other things with the computer.’ he said as he minimized the window which Mr Sylvester was not done staring at.
‘Oh! Of course, just make sure you get a positive feedback for me.’ Mr Sylvester said as he stood straight, realizing he had spent more time than necessary on checking the app, he was already disturbing Steve’s work.
Steve watched until Mr Sylvester walked out, he turned back to the computer and placed his finger on the mouse without doing anything. He was still waiting for Dayo who was standing close to leave the place. After waiting for almost one minute, he turned to face Dayo who didn’t look like he was planning to leave soon. ‘If you don’t mind please, I’m always not too comfortable with someone staring behind me while I work. It makes me loose concentration most times.’
‘Ehen! Okay,’ Dayo said and began to shift away reluctantly. Steve waited until he heard the sound of the door. He glanced back briefly and turned back quickly to the computer to complete his work.
‘I believe her car should be somewhere here,’ Rex said, pointing to some vehicles parked off the road at the other carriageway. He was driving at a very slow speed and motorists behind were overtaking and hurling insults as they drove past but he didn’t mind.
‘There are three cars parked there, how do we know which is her own?’ Stainless asked.
‘We go and check, we’ll find out.’
‘But don’t you think we’ll miss her if she really is at the NSCC now. What if she finishes before we get there and she leaves?’
‘I did not only deactivate her account, I also changed one of the email addresses there. I’ll get an email alert if my address is removed or if the account is reactivated.’
‘But what if she isn’t even there at all?’ Stainless asked with his voice really full of doubts. Rex turned to him with a serious look on his face, he increased the speed of the car.
‘Why wouldn’t she be there?’ Rex asked with a half scornful and half angry look on his face.
‘She could decide not to go to the NSCC yet, what if she isn’t even in Abuja yet?’ Stainless said, trying to justify his reason for doubting.
‘She has not choice than to be in Abuja except she has no need of her NSCC account anymore.’
‘But she could decide to come reactivate it at a later date.’ Stainless argued in a fierce tone. He was totally convinced that Rex was leading them in the wrong direction and that things may not go as he had predicted.
‘You talk like an ignorant fool, I think you are really one. But I’ll do you the favour of educating you. The NSCC account cannot be reactivated again after twenty four hours of its deactivation, it’s the way their system has been programmed.’
Stainless was quiet.
‘She has no choice than to come quickly for the reactivation which can only be done when the NSCC servers won’t be overloaded and that time is before noon. Following the records of the NSCC is her only option of tracing us and finding Cole. But even if she decides to lose the NSCC account and not to trace us, that is, she doesn’t want to find Cole anymore, we won’t stop at this. We have other plans for her. Her end is surely near.’
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Dave took another sip from the cup of water and dropped the bottle noisily on the table. He checked the watch on his wrist again and turned uncomfortably in his chair as his eyes wandered around the place for any sign of Stephanie. He had been there fifteen minutes before the time and tried to while away time by watching the music videos been shown on the television but he didn’t succeed in making himself less anxious.
His plan was to get everything he could from Stephanie and travel back to Abuja that day but Stephanie’s long delay was posing a threat to his plan. Not that he could blame her though, he knew she could face challenges in trying to sneak out from her mother’s presence.
At exactly nine minutes to noon, his eyes caught a figure while wandering. It was Stephanie, she was dressed in a black denim top and a blue jean trouser. Her face was moderately made up and she had a dark sunshade on to complement her dressing. The high heels she was putting on addedstyle to her steps.
Dave watched and scrutinized her from head to toe as she walked towards him, it was his first time of seeing her upright on her feet and he had just noticed her hips and her eight figure, it was a perfect size for her body.
His urge to leave the place quickly was completely eliminated from his mind by the scent of the perfume she was wearing. She was in front of him already. She adjusted the seat before sitting, then she took off her sunshades and placed it on the table.
‘Good morning Dave,’ she greeted, staring straight into his eyes with a kind smile.
Dave did not respond to the greeting immediately, he was still carried away. He wasn’t only mesmerized by her beauty but also by her confidence and the way she carried herself and took her steps gracefully. She also bore resemblance to someone he couldn’t picture in his mind but he knew he had seen someone who looked and had the same style of walking like her, that was what kept him lost more.
‘Hello!’ Stephanie called, waving her hand in his face. ‘Good morning,’ she greeted again after Dave blinked his eyes and adjusted briskly like someone who had been dozing off and was woken with a poke.
‘Hi Steph, Good morning,’ Dave finally replied with a smile. He rubbed his hands quickly with a handkerchief and offered her a handshake.
‘What were you thinking about?’ she asked, looking amazed as she received his hand.
‘I was thinking about you,’ he smiled. ‘I’ve been waiting for sometime now and that’s enough to get me thinking about you, ,’ he said and quickly checked his wristwatch again.
‘Yes, I know you’ve been waiting. I’m sorry I delayed for so long,’ she apologized. ‘I had to wait for my mum to leave first. I’m not supposed to go anywhere.’
‘I understand,’ Dave said and adjusted his seat, ready for the main talk. ‘Ermm… What would you like to take before we continue?’ he asked, looking towards the waiters and signalling to one.
‘I’m okay, I think we should just talk now.’ she declined his offer politely.
‘Soft drinks or you do alcohol?’ he asked with a mischievous smile.
‘Don’t bother, I’m okay. I took breakfast already this morning,’ she replied.
‘Yea, I know but we just need something to make our discussion livelier. So what would you like?’
‘Just water would do,’ Stephanie answered.
‘Just water?’ he questioned stubbornly, staring at her and squeezing his face. She ended up laughing at the funny face. He straightened his face and stared at her with a serious look for a minute. ‘Hmm… I think I know what you’ll like,’ he said and then turned to the waiter. ‘Get us two packs of fruit juice, preferable pineapple juice.’
‘Oh! How do you know I like pineapple juice?’ she asked, looking surprised.
‘I just know, I read people’s mind.’ Dave answered playfully. He had found out about her love for pineapple juice at the hospital when a friend of hers had brought it as a gift, even though the gift was never delivered for Security purposes.
‘Come on, you must be a hell of a naughty person to be with.’ she remarked playfully.
‘So many others say so,’ Dave replied. Soon the waiter was back with the order and Dave had the juice served into their individual juice cups and the discussion began.
‘What’s the plan now?’ Dave began. ‘When are you leaving with your mum?’
‘Huh!’ Steph exclaimed with the cup on his lips. Her eyes widened as she dropped the cup back on the table without drinking from it. ‘You seem to know everything. How did you know I was supposed to leave with her?’
‘I overheard the police officers talking about it,’ Dave answered.
‘Well, they advised my mum to leave with me but I’ve decided to stay.’
‘You’ve decided to stay?’ Dave sounded surprised.
‘Yes, I want to finish my education here.’
‘But why don’t you just finish this session here and make a transfer to a school overseas. I’m sure your school can provide you the necessary documents for that, it’ll only cost some money which I believe can be paid by your mum.’
‘I can’t leave Nigeria now,’ Stephanie stated in a strong tone. Her face had changed from the jovial looking and relaxed face and a deep frown had appeared.
Dave stared at her face for some seconds, studying her reaction. He knew that her reason for not wanting to leave was something very personal and important. ‘Maybe we’ll come back to that later,’ Dave said, leaving the subject temporarily. ‘How was your experience with the doctors after you woke up that morning after your supposed memory loss?’ Dave asked, adding a smile to ease off the already building tension. ‘Did you find all I told you to be the truth?’
‘Yes, it was all true. They all thought I had lost part of my memory and that I can remember events of fourteen days before I was given that injection.’ she replied. Her frown had faded away and a brief smile surfaced as she remembered acting for the doctors and officers.
‘I hope you didn’t give them any clue that you still remember anything?’
‘Yes, I tried my best to. I don’t think anyone noticed anything.’
‘That’s good. Congratulations,’ he said, offering her another handshake.
‘Thank you but you’ve not still explained what it was,’ she said as she took his hand again. ‘You’ve also not told me who you are.’
‘I’m David James, a staff at the NSCC. I’ve been watching you on cameras while on duty recently,’ he said.
‘You’ve been watching me?’
‘Yes, but I don’t mean stalking or anything like that.’ he clarified quickly. ‘I just saw your image one day while doing a routine check and coincidentally I was also the staff who compiled the videos for the police after your kidnap, so I got to know more about you through that.’
Stephanie listened in silence.
‘I also knew that a lady was the one who took you to the hospital not the police, so when the police lied about it, I was surprised and that was when I stepped in. I knew they had ulterior motives and I wanted to find out.’
‘But how did you know about the injection the was given to me?’
‘I have a friend who is a doctor at City Gate hospital, they only have five doctors there and one of them is my very close friend. He was just complaining casually to me and mentioned that the police officers were forcing them to prepare a mixture that’ll effect the memory loss they want for you. So I sneaked into the hospital using his access cards and placed a recorder under your bed to listen to everything that went on there. It made me able to figure out the time they planned to use the drug on you and I changed it to a sleep inducing mixture in their lab.’
Stephanie continued to stare at him speechlessly.
‘The sleep Inducing mixture was prepared by another doctor and I wanted him to give me a mixture that’ll make you sleep for exactly the same hours they expected you to but he said it could have side effects on you later like severe headache and body pain, so I opted for the one which had no side effects. I think it was even a better choice because it made me think about coming to explain what was happening to you which I did. If I didn’t, they would have found out the next morning that you were not injected with the right mixture.’
‘That’s true, thanks.’ Stephanie said and heaved a sigh. ‘So you’re investigating the Police, or isn’t that what you’re doing?’
‘Not really but I’m okay if you call it so.’
‘Don’t you think it’s dangerous? What if they find out?’
‘I know it’s dangerous and I’m planning to back out already. In fact, that’s why I wanted to meet with you because I wouldn’t like to get into trouble with the authorities. I want you to promise that all that happened will not be known to someone else through you.’
‘I won’t tell anyone,’ she sighed. ‘But I was actually thinking you were a different kind of policeman.’
‘No, I’m not. I’m just somebody who is inquisitive and who also loves adventure.’
There was a brief moment of silence. The two used the silent moment to process their individual thoughts and also finish part of their drinks.
‘So, do you still remember anything about Samantha Osman?’
Stephanie paused and glanced briefly at his face. She had her cup held slanted on the table as she gently shook it from side to side playfully. ‘Yes, I do remember all that happened that night.’ she replied.
‘Can you tell me about it please?’ David requested eagerly.
Stephanie squinted at him for some seconds, she wondered what he wanted to do with the information since he said he was already backing out of his dangerous adventure. ‘I’ll tell you,’ she finally said, only agreeing because she saw it as a way of paying him back.
Dave adjusted his seating position and placed his hands on the table, ready to pick all the details.
‘She came in that day when the capon of the cult was about to molest me, she killed him after hitting a chair on his head. There was a kind of fury I saw on her face that day that I never seen on anyone else. I thought she was going to kill me but she didn’t. Instead she led me out of the place and spoke words to calm me down. The other men in the building came after us after they found out their boss had been killed and she had to ask me to wait in a toilet, she gave me a device to communicate with her while she went out to kill the other men and save the other kidnapped people. I didn’t wait for her and I tried to run away because I was scared of her and that was how I got the injury that got me to the hospital,’ she concluded.
Dave took in a breath. The story was not different from the one he had heard in the recorded tape, so he desisted from asking more questions pertaining to her experience.
‘So you still say you want to stay? I mean you don’t want to leave the country with your mum?’ Dave returned to the first discussion and the tensed atmosphere returned with it.
‘I’m staying here,’ she stated dryly.
‘Why? Can you share the reason with me? I may be able to help, you know,’ Dave offered, his sincerity could be heard in his voice.
‘I already mentioned the reason, I want to finish schooling first.’
‘That’s not true,’ Dave countered. ‘You’re hiding something,’ he accused, looking directly into his eyes.
She looked away from him.
‘You don’t want to share with me?’ Dave said. She remained quiet. ‘Well, I think traveling to the US will be good for you. You’ll be safe from danger there.’
‘Thanks for the advice,’ she said without taking any thought on what he said. ‘What’s the time please, she asked with a raised eyebrow?’
Dave checked his wristwatch. ‘You’re planning to leave already?’ he asked instead of telling her the time. He relaxed his back against the backrest and placed a thin stare at her face.
‘Yes, my mum won’t be staying out for long.’ she said.
‘I understand,’ Dave replied and sat up. ‘I would like to see you again, can you reach me later with your own line?’
‘Yes, I will, whenever I get my phone back.’
‘Good,’ Dave smiled. ‘Please do not hesitate to reach me if you have any problems with the police or if Samantha Osman shows up again.’
Stephanie smiled mockingly and sized him from head to toe with her eyes. ‘What are you going to do if Samantha Osman shows up?’ she asked with a mocking smile.
‘Huh!’ Dave took it jokingly. He placed his hands on the table and rolled up his right sleeves, folding the arm to show his power. ‘I’m gonna deal with her if she tries to hurt you.’
‘Haha! With those tiny hands you’ve got, I’m sure you’ll run away immediately I call to inform you of her presence.’
They continued with the jokes for a few more minutes and left the restaurant together but did not depart until Dave made her promise to call him and urged her to see him as a friend she could depend on and call upon in times of trouble.
To be continued