Cole eyes ran around the place in awe as he dropped the wheelchair to the ground and positioned it well for Henry to put Tarasha in it. He took a second to look down the stairs from where Tomi was climbing up tiredly with a big bag hung around her shoulder. The walk from the underground facility to the new structure had been longer than expected, reason being that every single door they encountered had a special way of opening it only known to Tarasha, and it took her more than usual to open the doors because of her inability to stand and use her hands properly.
Cole turned back and met Henry also motionless with his eyes wondering about the place.
‘Are you sure we didn’t just go in circles? Is this not the same place we’re supposed to be running from?’ Henry moved in, away from the two others, staring at the walls, ceilings and even the floors.
The underground had led them into a study and it looked exactly the same way the study in the structure that was being threatened looked. It had the same kind of books, shelfs, chairs and their arrangements. The only difference being that this place looked a bit dusty and it was obvious that it had not been used or cleaned for sometime.
‘Everything in the other structure is the same as this, so non of us should have troubles using the place.’ Tarasha said as she began to wheel herself further. She was the only one apart from Tomi not surprised as to the outcome of their walk. Henry quickly walked back to her and continued to roll her in.
As soon as Tomi surfaced, Cole went back down the stairs to carry the bag he left down the stairs. They had reduced the bags into two and left the others in the underground, to enable them to walk easier and faster.
‘But, are you sure this place can’t be discovered?’ Henry asked as he opened the door of the study and returned to the wheelchair. ‘I mean the connection with the underground and the other structure.’
‘It can be discovered but that will be after the destruction of so many other properties along this axis,’ she replied.
‘And that can’t be done easily?’ Henry questioned.
‘It won’t be done,’ she stated. ‘lt will cause the government billions of dollars to control the adverse effects of any attempt to demolish the structure above ground level at the other end, that’s enough to keep them busy and limited for several years.’
They continued the rest of their movement in silence and stopped in the living room which looked exactly the same just like Tarasha had said. Henry sank into one of the sofas after wheeling her to the centre of the living room. She turned the chair by herself and wheeled it to the side of the three seater sofa where Henry sat directly opposite. Both of them remained in silence, waiting for Cole and Tomi.
Tomi showed up with her bag in the living room two minutes later but Cole showed up five minutes after. Tarasha knew he would have been taking his time to look around the house and wonder why Tarasha had set up exactly same structures in two different points in Maitama and how she connected them together through the underground.
‘I think this place needs cleaning up too,’ Tomi was the first to speak when Cole returned.
‘I gotta rest for a minute,’ Cole said in a refuting manner before Tomi would ask that they begun to clean the place immediately. He sank into the chair beside Henry, closing his eyes as he rested his head. He and Henry had done most of the jobs they needed to do before leaving the underground; disconnecting the servers, turning off the lasers in the first main structure – Tarasha had asked them to turn them off as their continued running of the security process added to their electric power usage and bill – and closing up of the entrance from the first main building.
‘We need to take care of the control room first, I’ll like to use the place very soon. Others can be taken care of after you’ve had your breakfast,’ Tarasha said. After giving the instruction, she wheeled herself to the centre of the living room where Tomi dropped the bag she brought and stopped beside it. She tried to bend and open the bag but she had a struggle holding the zip firmly.
Henry got up to help her but Cole beat him to it. He opened the main section of the bag widely for Tarasha to look into what was there. It contained books – some old and some new- documents, files and some stationeries all arranged in the bag although had been quite disorganized by their movement from one place to another and the way Tomi carried it when she did.
‘You want something there?’ Cole asked, looking up at Tarasha’s face from his squatting position. Tomi was now seated at the one seater on a perpendicular line to the three seater.
Tarasha did not give a quick response but her eyes scanned round the bag for some more seconds.
Tarasha looked up as she suddenly remembered something, she stared thinly at Cole’s face and then at Henry’s. ‘Before I work in the control room, we have to set up the connection and also open up the cameras. I’ll allow you guys work for today while I start what I want to do tomorrow.’ she said and then turned to Tomi. ‘Can you please make us breakfast? Cole would show you the way to the kitchen, there should be some foodstuffs there.’
‘I think I should go ahead to the control room now,’ Henry said, getting up with Tomi and Cole and they began to walk away one after the other.
Cole suddenly stopped and turned back to meet Tarasha. ‘Boss, I forgot to tell you something.’ he said with a serious look on his face.
‘What’s that?’ Tarasha asked.
‘Chief Gab called yesterday.’
‘And what did he say?’
‘He wanted to speak with you but we told him you could not talk to him then,’ Cole answered.
‘And is that all?’
‘Hum… No,’ Cole said as paused again to think, wondering if Tarasha would get angry with him for what he was going to say next.
‘What else?’ she raised a brow.
‘I told him that we needed a new facility and he promised to call back since then,’ Cole said.
There was a brief moment of silence.
‘Bring my phone to me after you show Tomi the kitchen,’ she said in a dismissal tone. Cole nodded slightly and turned to join the rest.
Tarasha’s eyes moved back to the opened bag beside her after they left. She fixed her gaze on a book she had overlooked before. Her mind made a quick flashback to the day she got the book and how she did; the torn incomplete book she got from the former Senate President’s study. It was still as tattered as it was when she got it. She bent and reached for the book and as she picked it up, her eyes met the one that was just under it and this brought a sudden and sharp pain to her heart. She felt a kind of hotness in her eyes and she closed it to absorb the pain.
She opened her eyes and stared at her mother’s diary for another second, then she looked away and flipped open the Senate President’s book, she scanned through the page and flipped to the next. She was about to open to the another page again when a name in first sentence of the last paragraph on the page caught her attention. She narrowed her eyes as she began to read from that sentence,
‘Our last meeting with the Danjuma’s didn’t go well, even after our threats, the doctors refused to budge. While we were still thinking of what to do about them, the news of their disappearance hit us. We were worried at first but the Chief gave us the assurance that there would be no problems. Shortly after their disappearance, Elvis Richards called to inform everyone else about the discovery of their location. The Chief gave Elvis and Gabriel the assignment to mute the doctors but Gabriel did not really agree to the plan and…’ the page ended.
She tried to flip to the next page to continue reading but…
Location: Lagos Nigeria
‘Good morning Gabriel, where are you?’ the caller’s voice sounded through the phone’s speaker.
‘Good morning, I’m on the way to my office. Why do you ask?’ Gabriel answered the caller’s question.
‘How long will it take you to get to your office? I’m coming over there with Jubril,’ the caller replied.
‘I’ll be there in less than fifteen minutes, someone is waiting there for me.’ Gabriel replied. ‘But I hope there’s no problem? It’s strange that you and Jubril are coming over this early morning.’
‘There’s no problem, we just want to discuss something brief with you, it’s concerning our hanging deal.’
‘Okay, I’ll be expecting you.’ Gabriel said and cut the call. He took off the earpiece from his ears and increased the speed of his moving car.
Gabriel got to his place of work ten minutes later. He hurried into his office and met the young lady waiting for him at the secretary’s stand. He signalled for her to follow him in after replying to the secretary’s greeting. He settled down quickly in his office and offered his guest a drink after apologizing for keeping her waiting for long. They had begun to discuss the reason for their meeting for only three minutes when the door of Gabriel’s office opened slightly and someone poked his head in.
‘Gabriel,’ Elvis Richards smiled as he entered and closed the door, not minding the look on his friend’s guest’s face. ‘Sorry, I didn’t know you had a visitor,’ he apologized on seeing the embarrassed look on his friend’s face. It was one of those very rare days Elvis wore his police uniform to his friend’s place. He was always in casuals whenever they met and sometimes disguised like a criminal instead of dressing like the police official he was.
‘That girl is not always doing her job,’ Gabriel complained about the secretary, even though he knew his friend could have ignored or refused to stop at her warning. That was how Elvis behaved, he always walked straight into his office, except for days that he didn’t call to inform him of his coming.
Gabriel and Elvis’ gazes locked for a moment. Gabriel expected Elvis to excuse him and his guest but it was certain with Elvis’ body language that that wasn’t going to happen.
‘Please excuse us,’ Gabriel finally said in a pleading tone to the young lady seated in front of him. She courteously picked her bag from the floor where she kept it and got up, she greeted officer Elvis briefly before proceeding to the door.
Elvis’ eyes followed her backside as she went and he whistled lustfully after she closed the door. ‘All these girls will not kill somebody with their mini skirts,’ he commented, shaking his head as he sat on the second visitor’s seat. ‘Is she one of those who needs help?’ he asked, staring back at the door with his eyes still filled with lust.
‘Do you have help to give her?’ Gabriel asked sardonically without expecting a reply. ‘She is a graduate who wants me to approve a letter for her,’ Gabriel added as he folded his arms and rested back in his chair. He gave his friend a thin and serious look. ‘And how come you’re the one still asking about girls here? I thought I’ve told you not to talk about girls anymore when you come into my office. The rubbish you did the last time is still making people curse me till today.’
Elvis hissed and blinked, ‘Curse?’ What effect has their curses have on you? Did it affect your job? Didn’t you get promoted after that and now you’re even in a better place.’ he added a brief laughter. ‘Besides, I’m not planning to do it in your office, it’s only for her to say she needs my help and I’ll take her to somewhere I can help her well.’
Gabriel shook his head at him. ‘I wonder how you became a policeman and I wonder how your excess lust for women does not affect your ability to catch criminals.’ Gabriel paused and sat up. ‘By the way, where’s the Jubril you said you were coming with?’
‘Jubril couldn’t come again, he received a call and had to leave immediately.’
‘Okay, so what brings you here?’ Gabriel asked and placed his elbows on the table.
Elvis adjusted his seating position, ‘Chief has given both of us a special assignment.’
‘His Excellency?’ Gabriel cut in.
‘No, the Special Adviser.’ Elvis Richards answered. ‘We’ve found the location of the Danjumas,’ he paused to adjust his seating position again. ‘And Chief has asked both of us to take care of them.’
‘Where exactly were they found?’ Gabriel asked, a frown had formed in his face and the uneasiness he was feeling could be heard in his voice.
‘Somewhere in Borno, Maiduguri.’ Elvis Richards answered.
‘Ah! How can they go somewhere like that?’ Gabriel opened his mouth in shock. ‘That place is dangerous right now with the Insurgency.’
Elvis hissed. ‘I think Danjuma’s father has a house somewhere there but what’s our problem with that anyway?’
‘Well, what are we supposed to do about them?’ Gabriel asked in a tensed tone.
‘What else? Send them to heaven of course,’ Elvis Richards replied in a cold tone.
The frown on Gabriel’s face thickened. ‘Has the Chief asked us to do that?’
‘Yes, that’s exactly what he wants us to do and I’ve even found a way to do it so easily,’ Elvis said.
Gabriel’s eyes widened as he pulled back a little from the table.
‘What’s the matter?’ Elvis asked with a raised eyebrow as he noticed Gabriel’s countenance.
‘No, it’s nothing.’ he shook his head. ‘Just continue,’ he made a hand gesture to his friend to keep on speaking and then folded his arms.
‘I recently met this boy whom I knew during his training in the police force some years back, he is now a member of the Boko Haram group…’
‘What?’ Gabriel cut in, spreading his hands out in fear. ‘What do we have to do with Boko Haram?’
‘Are you crazy Gabriel? What’s the matter with you?’ Elvis Richards flared up. ‘I would have loved to do this with Jubril or Nasiru if not for the Chief that insisted we involved someone from the other political party not to make it look partial. I don’t even know who acts more like a woman between you and Onwuli.’
‘It’s okay Elvis, don’t insult me.’ Gabriel cautioned.
‘Then stop acting like a woman. I don’t know if you’re not tired of this whole hanging deal but I am, we need to finish it up quickly. I’ve not been able to enjoy the honour of my chieftaincy since we all received our titles because we’ve been running up and down all through.’ Elvis blared on.
‘Alright Elvis, speak on.’ Gabriel said and folded his arms again.
‘Are you sure you’re ready to listen?’
‘Yea, speak on.’
‘We are all aware that the Chief also works with some of these terrorist guys, so it means there’ll be no problem if we use them too.’
‘But…’ Gabriel’s voice faded out as he tried to cut in. He stared at Elvis’ face for a moment to see if the latter wasn’t angry about the interruption. ‘Don’t you think working with this deadly group is a bad idea? I mean, these guys are killing people in their hundreds and we want to join them.’
Elvis shook his head and hissed. ‘What’s your concern with how many people they’re killing?’ he asked, giving Gabriel a side look. ‘Even Chief that is from the region is not concerned about his people that are dying daily as you are.’
‘Hmm… But you know that Chief is using it for political reasons and we don’t have to become as cruel as he is just because we want to be successful politicians.’
‘Gabriel, open a church if you want to preach , don’t preach to me as if you are a saint.’
‘I’m not a saint but…’
‘What about the drugs we bring it?’ Elvis cut in. ‘Does that not kill hundreds of people everyday?’
Gabriel let out a deep breath and shook his head.
‘We’re doing the same thing Gabriel, killing less privileged people to make our money.’ Elvis stated.
Gabriel was silent.
‘Look here, like I said; this young Boko Haram guy is one of their commanders who I know very well. All we need to do is give him the address of their house and he’s going to lead his troops to the area. We will tell him to pay special attention to that particular house and even give him the couple’s pictures. He will have to make sure that they are dead and bring picture proofs to us.’
Gabriel closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. ‘I…’
She tried to flip to the next page to continue reading but it was stuck to the previous page. She couldn’t tell if a liquid had poured in between and gummed them together or if it was the quality of ink used that made them stick. She tried to separate the pages carefully but ended up splitting them halfway into two. She let out a breath, wondering what to do, whether to continue from the third page which was already divided into two or try harder to open the middle pages and risk losing all. She decided to read the available page first before going back to the middle but as she began to read, she noticed that it continued from the page she read last, meaning that there was nothing in the pages she was trying to access and that the book had always been like that.
She turned back to the previous page again and read from the last line to ease her understanding, ‘Gabriel did not really agree to the plan and he tried to stop it initially, he held the opinion that since the doctors had fled already, there was no need hunting them again. But that didn’t stop what was to be done, the doctors were killed and the pictures were shown to us before our business continued as usual.’
Tarasha stopped after reading the paragraph and closed her eyes to absorb the pain and anger that was welling up in her. She could feel a cold sensation spread through her body as it vibrated, that was the only way she could express her anger with the strength she had.
Her eyes popped open as she sensed the entrance of someone else in the living room. Cole’s eyes met with hers. He was standing close to the entrance of the corridor and staring at her with an expressionless face. She took in a breath and her body calmed down on seeing him. He began to walk towards her with the phone she requested for in his hand.
She stretched out her hand even before he got to her, he dropped the phone and turned back without saying any word.
She unlocked the phone as soon as he walked out of the living room and searched for Chief Gab’s number, one of his numbers was the first contact on the call records. She dialed his number and placed the phone close to her ear but ended it as soon as she noticed it was being directed to voicemail. She opened the contact list and searched the Chief’s second Nigerian number but got the same response after dialing. Then she tried his only foreign number on the list and it began to ring.
‘Hello,’ Chief Gab answered after the second ring, he sounded like he had a hard time making the decision of answering the call.
‘Chief Gab, you left the country already?’
‘Tarasha!’ he exclaimed in a loud tone. ‘I was told you were badly injured…’
‘You were asked to provide us a new facility,’ she cut in.
‘Yes Tarasha, but ermm… You see,’ the Chief paused for a while trying to find words to use. ‘You see, I had limited time to use in Nigeria, I told you the last time we spoke, didn’t I?’
‘What about the facility?’ she asked again, ignoring his explanation.
‘Ermm… Are you well and out of danger now?’ the Chief asked, trying to evade answering Tarasha’s question.
‘That isn’t the reply to what I asked you Chief, what about the new facility we need?’
‘Tarasha, I’m still working on it.’ he finally answered.
‘When will it be ready?’
‘Ermm… I’ll call you back to let you know when it is.’
‘Please, we have two days to work on that,’ she said and took a brief pause. ‘Now, I want you to tell me everything you know about the Danjuma’s death.’
To be continued