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Nathan was seated calmly in his office when the two men barged into his office without warning and began pushing items around.
“Wait! What are you doing?!”
One of the young men snatched up his laptop while the other opened drawers and rummaged through them, carelessly sending documents flying all over the room.
Nathan was incensed.
“Who are you and what do you think you are doing?”
The one who held on to his laptop said dismissively
“We are gathering evidence, you better stay one side.”
Nathan pulled out his phone from his pocket and was about to dial his boss’ number when Mr. Taiwo walked in.
“Sir! You need to tell this people to stop harassing me. I don’t know where Uzo is!”
Mr. Taiwo had a defeated look on his face as he implored weakly
Both men ignored him and carried on with what they were doing. The one who held unto the laptop suddenly fished into his pocket and retrieved his ringing cellphone.
“Yes? Hold on, I’ll text you right away.”
He looked briefly at Nathan’s laptop screen then typed out something on his phone.
“Just sent it.” He grunted a couple more times then hung up.
Malik stood over Bode’s shoulder as Bode ran a series of codes on his computer.
“How long is this going to take?”
Bode didn’t look up.
“It depends. A few minutes, a few hours but certainly not any shorter than it would with you breathing down my neck.”
Malik walked away and began pacing around the room instead. Bode ignored him.
In no time Bode smiled and called out to him.
Malik rushed to his side and stared at the screen intently before tapping a part of it with his forefinger.
“That mail, let me see the full thing.”
Bode clicked on the mail in question and Malik grinned widely
“Well, glory Hallelujah! Or how do you people say it?”
Right there on the screen was a message from Nathan’s inbox
Uzo is safe. Stop looking for him and stop trying to contact him. Ignore the gossip going round. He did not kill anyone but ensure you do not say anything to anyone. His life might depend on it.
“I need to know where that came from!”
Bode shrugged and went back to typing away on his computer. Malik could hardly stand still. If they could trace the sender of the email, then he would know where Uzo was. This just proved that someone was actively involved in trying to protect Uzo. He needed to know who it was, just how many people were involved and what he was up against.
He remembered going through Gbemiga’s phone but finding nothing. It only had pictures of Leela and himself and a few random contact numbers. He guessed that the phone was probably a backup and not Gbemiga’s main phone so that had been a dead end.
He had so much to tidy up, he could not wait to get it all over with. His friends at the state CID had gone over to Nathan’s office to shake them up some more. He had been almost convinced that Nathan knew nothing but this email had only served to implicate Nathan. If he could not find Uzo on his own within 12 hours, he would have them arrest and detain Nathan. He was willing to bet that Uzo would show up for his friend. At least, it was worth a try.
“Something is not right.”
Malik snapped out of his reverie and was at Bode’s side in a flash.
“What is it?”
“I don’t think that mail came from a random, regular person. There are so many firewalls, I can’t seem to get through.”
Bode bit his nails as Malik stared at the screen not comprehending any bit of what he was seeing.
“Well, you’re a hacker now. Get through them.”
“It’s not that easy. The encryptions are pretty solid. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get past them and it will take me a really long time too.”
Bode backed out of the chair and stood up. “I need to get something to eat.”
Malik grabbed him roughly by the collar and shoved him back into the chair.
“You are not going anywhere until you find out where that email came from and who sent it.”
Bode’s shock was plastered clearly all over his face.
“You do know I do not work for you right? And whatever madness has got you all riled up, you need to put a leash on it. I am going to eat. My brain can’t function when my stomach is empty. So get out of my way.”
He pushed roughly out of Malik’s grip and sauntered out of the room. Malik sighed. He needed to stay calm. Bode was good at his job. It was best to not annoy him. That would only achieve nothing.
Twelve hours later, Bode was still unable to make a breakthrough and he gave up.
“I’m sorry man. But whatever this is, you have got to try another option. I’ve got a real job to do.”
“Are you sure you have tried everything?” Malik asked exasperatedly
“Every single thing I know. This is some top level security shit we’re talking about here. I don’t know who these people are but they are good. I’m surprised they didn’t crash my system in the process of covering their tracks. I’m sha done trying.”
Malik rubbed his hands over tired eyes.
“Fine. Thank you.”
He watched Bode pack up his computer and leave then he whipped out his phone and dialed a number.
“Bring Nathan to me tonight.”
The person at the other end of the line seemed to have hesitated because Malik snapped at him
“I said bring him here my friend and don’t ask me stupid questions.”
Malik fumed as he listened to the other man talk about due process and abuse of powers.
“Listen, I do not give a shit what your processes are. If you can’t get him down here, arrest him and detain him and I’ll personally come down to question him. You have two hours otherwise your sack letter will be waiting for you at your desk tomorrow morning.”
Malik tossed the phone on the table and reached for the packet of cigarette that lay at the edge of it. Kazeem walked into the room, eyebrows slightly raised.
“What’s eating you?”
Malik lit a cigarette and stuck it between his lips.
“Still can’t find Uzo. Came close but couldn’t get past some damn firewalls.”
“So what laws are you trying to break now to find him?”
Malik smirked and dragged on his cigarette.
“Since when did we keep the rules to do anything?”
Kazeem shook his head.
“I’m heading home in a bit.”
Malik released a puff of smoke and raised his right hand
“Don’t leave yet. Come with me. Let’s have a small chat with Uzo’s best friend.”
“Your small chats nearly always involve a lot of blood.”
“Does blood scare you?”
“Is the earth flat?”
Kazeem took one final drag from the cigarette before stumping it out on an ashtray on the table.
“Let’s go then.”
Dr. Haliru walked outside the theater feeling slightly faint. He had been performing a surgery for almost 10 hours and he was exhausted. As he walked back to his office, he made mental notes to stop at one of the restaurants on his way to pick up fura from his local vendor. He needed a nice cold bowl after the kind of day he had had. He was thankful he did not have any more surgeries slated over the coming weeks. He was desperately in need of a break. He would simply go into his office, pack his bags and head home. He was done for the day.
As soon as he opened the door to his office, he caught a whiff of something that was slightly unfamiliar. He paused with the door held open for a few seconds contemplating what his nostrils had just perceived or if they had only deceived him. Unable to make up his mind, he walked in and shut the door behind him.
He was bent over his table packing his laptop and charger into a bag when he heard a voice behind him.
Dr. Haliru swirled around in fright, clutching his chest as he exclaimed
“A uzu billahi minal shaitanirr rajim!”
Ijeoma emerged from the shadows behind the bookshelf which stood just behind the door, a faint smile on her face.
“It’s so good to see you again.”
“Oh my God! What are you doing here? How did you find me?! How did you get in here?!”
Dr Haliru was genuinely terrified. That voice sent chills down his spine. And that face, he had hoped and prayed to never see the face again.
“Haba mana. Is this how you greet an old friend?”
Ijeoma advanced towards him but Dr. Haliru backed further away into his desk.
“Ijeoma, you and I aren’t friends anymore. You know this.”
Ijeoma sighed and stopped moving.
“Stop this Likita. I need your help. Please.”
Dr. Haliru tried to steady his breathing and calm his nerves.
He and Ijeoma had attended university together and they had been really good friends after they met in his final year of studying Medicine. She had also been in her final year studying International Relations. Upon graduation, they lost touch and he had gone ahead to further his studies and qualify as a surgeon. The last time he had seen Ijeoma was ten years ago. He had had an affair with one of the students doing her residency at his hospital and her boyfriend found out and began blackmailing him, threatening to ruin his marriage and his career. He paid lump sums of cash twice but the boy would not stop and it began to worry him greatly.
Then he randomly ran into Ijeoma at a classmate’s book launch. They met up for drinks later that night and after a few bottles of beer, he found himself telling her about the blackmail. Ijeoma had reclined her back in the chair, crossed her feet and rocked them from side to side as she asked for details of the blackmailer. He hadn’t known much. Just the boy’s name and where he worked. Ijeoma had smiled and she told him she would take care of it.
Two days later, the boy wound up dead. He had been run over in an accident. Dr. Haliru nearly had a heart attack when he heard. His guts told him it was no accident. He tried to find ijeoma everywhere but the number she had given him never went through and none of his other friends knew where to find her.
A week later, she showed up at his office calm as anything. He asked her outrightly what she meant when she said she would take care of the problem and with the blankest of expressions, she said
“You had a problem, I took care of it. The how does not matter.”
“Did you kill that boy?” Dr. Haliru asked
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.”
It had scared and infuriated him at the same time. The Ijeoma he knew from school was a kind, lovely, easy-going lady. The person who sat in front of him that day had eyes like steel and a voice void of emotions. He ordered her out of his office and stated clearly that he never wanted to see or hear from her again. Now ten years later, here she was, standing right in front of him.
“Whatever it is you want, I can’t help you.”
“You’re a hard man to find you know. Then I go through all the trouble of finding you and you won’t even hear me out?”
Dr. Haliru considered for a few seconds and sighed.
“I’ll hear you out on one condition. Tell me honestly whether or not you killed that boy ten years ago.”
Ijeoma rolled her eyes and exhaled loudly.
“I think you already know the answer to that question. Isn’t that why you purportedly banned me from your life?”
“So you killed him, yes or no?”
“Likita, I don’t have time for this. You know the answer already. My admitting or denying it is not going to change anything.”
Dr. Haliru’s eyes softened.
“Why? Why did you do it?”
Ijeoma was growing impatient.
“I did it because you are my friend. And you had a problem and I wasn’t going to let it take you down. It’s what friends do likita, they help each other out. Now I’m here to ask for your help as my friend because I have no one else to turn to and if you don’t help me, my son and I could be dead before you know it.”
Dr. Haliru was taken aback
“You have a son?”
“What do you want?”
“Thank you for asking. I need a facelift.”
Leela rinsed the last set of dishes in the sink and placed them on the dish rack to drain water. She dried her hands with a napkin and walked out of the kitchen into the living room. The television was on and there was some movie on Africa Magic just coming on. She sat cross-legged on the couch and turned the volume up.
A few minutes later, she got up and walked out to Uzo’s room. She knocked twice on the door and when he didn’t respond, she gently pushed it open.
“Hey. There’s a movie on Africa Magic that looks interesting. Maybe you should come watch with me. It’ll ease the boredom somewhat.”
Uzo did not look up from the book he was reading. He did nothing to acknowledge her presence in the room.
“You haven’t said a word to me in two days Uzo. I know you’re angry and hurt but I don’t see how this is helping.”
Her phone vibrated it her pocket and she pulled it out to answer.
Her expression went from blank to horror in seconds.
Uzo looked up in time to see her shield her mouth with her palm. She glanced at him briefly before turning and hurrying out of the room.
Uzo’s curiosity got the better of him and he dropped the book he was holding and followed her into the living room.
“Well, I’m certain that’s not something he’ll ever want to see. I’ll sign in and delete them immediately. They’re grasping at straws so clearly, they have nothing. We’ll stay put here. Thank you.”
She hung up and turned swiftly to head into her room but was startled to see Uzo standing behind her.
She briefly contemplated lying to him but decided against it.
“I’m not sure you want to know.”
Uzo said nothing. He disappeared into the hallway and reappeared a few seconds later with her laptop and internet modem. He placed the items before her and said
“Show me Leela.”
Leela sighed and picked up the laptop. She signed into his gmail account and opened the first unread mail she saw. It had been sent from Nathan’s email address. The mail contained three pictures and Leela clicked on the first one.
“Oh God.” Uzo groaned.
Right before their eyes was a gory picture of Nathan’s badly beaten up face. Underneath it was a message that read
Bring Uzo back to Lagos and Nathan lives.
by Ogechi Nwobia
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