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“Sir?” Shola responded from her room. She was lying in her own bed for the first time in over two weeks. She’d come in to get a fresh set of clothes for the coming week and had decided to hang around a little to appease her dad who’d gotten back from one of his trips two days ago. Her mum had informed her of her dad’s arrival but Shola had decided to wait till the weekend before returning. The manner in which her dad had replied her greeting earlier had hinted her that he was unhappy. She got up as quickly as she could and headed to the living room, where she found her dad in his favorite chair. From his looks, she knew it was judgment day. “Where have you been?” he asked, “The Hospital.” she replied. She knew her mum would have told him everything, but she could trust her dad to ask for himself. “Ki lo’nse nbe?” he asked, “Ara oko mi ni o ya, Sir” she replied. It turned out to be the wrong answer as her dad exploded.
“Oko e? Are you married?” he shouted. “No, I meant my boyfriend, Sir.” she replied. From the corner of her eye she could see her mum slowly approaching. “So, doesn’t he have any family? Why do you have to be there all week long? Ko’lebi ni?”. “None of his family are in the country.” her mum came in trying to rescue her. “Oh-hooo! I see. So you are the Salvation Army now, abi?” her dad spat at her. Shola kept quiet unable to meet her dad’s stare. “Listen young woman, I’ve been observing you for a while now, the lifestyle, the cars, the late nights and all… I see the ring on your finger and I laugh. I’m sure you know why.” he said, picked up his newspaper and got back to reading. “I’m sorry, Sir.” she said and retreated to her room. She could hear her mum speaking to her dad as she got packing up the stuffs she needed.
Joe bit down on his pillow as the therapist flexed his knee. His mind was over 6000 km away, he could almost feel the chill of winter. He had put plans in motion to get he and Shola out of the country first, then eventually to the safe house in Geneva. OJ, his travel agent, had met with Shola a few days ago and had taken her passport. Joe needed to get in shape before Shola’s visa comes out and so he bore the therapist’s torture. He had needed to strengthen Shola’s trust in him. The gist about his drug use had not helped issues and he had repeatedly made it clear to her that he had only used it to deal with the pain and help get himself together. She seemed to have finally accepted his explanations. He knew he was damn lucky to have her and her absolute loyalty. Her response to the situation in the past couple of weeks has been more than he’d hoped for.
Joe had made a new friend while on admission. Pastor Dipo Uthman, the one Shola and Kola called P.Dipo, Pastor Keji’s husband, had turned out to be such a ‘cool guy’. He stopped by two or three times a week, they talked about movies and gadgets and played chess. Today, the man had come visiting after church and somehow, their talk had come to money and its acquisition. “I’d say for me, it’s been hard work, risks and luck.” Joe said concerning success. “Hmm! I agree with hard work and business risks, but luck? I’m not a believer in luck. I’ll rather not play the odds, I’ll go with a definite direction, and even when it’s not looking like it, I have an unassailable assurance that it will all turn out for my good.” Pastor Dipo countered with a smile as he moved a pawn on the chess board. Joe sat back a bit from the board and looked closely at the man before him.
He had sensed this was a successful man. He was a senior partner at a law firm of company secretaries. Joe had looked up the firm online the very first day the man had visited and given Joe his card, with his personal phone line written on the back. Joe had also noticed the various car keys Pastor Dipo brought, his phones and the way he smelled. Could this man be joking? “An assurance? Like you are always sure?” Joe queried. “Indeed. It’s a promise from God that has never failed. Jeremiah 29, verse 11.” Pastor Dipo replied, still smiling, “And the definite direction all of the time?” Joe asked stressing the ‘all’, “The Spirit of God dwells on my inside. I have trained my heart to continuously listen to Him, to always check with Him. That’s how it works.” the man replied, “Your move, Joe.” he added pointing at the chess board.
That night Joe lay in bed wondering why someone had not told him earlier of the things Pastor Dipo had shared with him that evening, it sounded pretty simple and, of course, didn’t come with all of the situations of his own path. Situations that had cost lives and money. Here he was in a hospital bed, just through fighting for his life, permanently scared on the forehead and only hoping he’ll be able to walk properly again. Was it really worth it? He looked over at Shola, she was asleep in the couch, wrapped in a blanket. She was the only real gain in his life so far. He thought about his crew, updates he’d gotten from Dave suggested all the other guys, aside Esosa and Chima, were safe. The search for Esosa had yielded nothing and no one seemed to know where Chima was. Right now he had to worry about himself first.
On Tuesday, Shola took a cab to Joe’s place to get his cheque books and Bible. One of the things Joe had said the day he came to was that both cars be left exactly where they were. And so, the Crosstour had stayed in Shola’s house and the X6 had remained in the hospital’s car lot. Joe had made marked improvements. The bandage on his head had reduced in size and he was gaining use of the leg gradually. She knew their days in town were coming to an end and she could not quit worrying about what lay ahead. She loved the fact that he was now best of friends with Pastor Dipo and had even sent specifically for his bible. She had seen Joe pray quite often of recent but as much as she wanted to encourage him, she was also being careful not to shatter the dream that was slowly coming through and so she’d kept quiet.
She found the cheque books and NLT Bible and was making to exit when she heard a knock. Her heart skipped a beat, she looked around for anything she could use to defend herself, but found none. A quick look through the peep hole revealed two guys in suits at the door. She had no idea who they were. Quietly, she slid the key out out of the lock and made for the kitchen. She opened the backdoor quietly, locked it behind her and made the most silent run she could down the stairs. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs looking around for anyone. She wished so badly she had brought a car. Seeing no one, she made a dash for the street through the gate. She knew if the men looked in that direction she would be in clear view. Luckily she got a bike almost immediately, hopped on and asked to be taken to the estate gate.
She got off the bike at the estate gate and walked briskly outside hoping to find a cab instantly. Now she regretted not making the cab that brought her wait. She was flagging down a cab when someone tapped her shoulder. She spun around expecting the worst, she was greeted by a man with a warm smile on his face. Definitely not one of the ones she’d seen at the door. She clutched her bag defensively, stepping away. The man put his hands forward telling her to relax. “How may I help you?” she asked, her mouth dry, “I’m Inspector Frank, SCID.” he said showing her his ID. She relaxed a little, at least her life was not in danger. She however starred closely at the ID just to be sure. “How may I help you?” she repeated somewhat bolder. She recalled two occasions when she and Joe had been stopped by cops and the way Joe had handled them. Boldly. Confidently.
The policeman was able to convince her to step into an eatery with him. She was not under arrest and had done nothing wrong. He just wanted to ask her a few questions. A few seconds after they sat down, the two men she had seen at the door walked in and sat at another table. “Sorry, do you know those men?” she asked, “Yes.” was all he said. “OK?” she said checking her watch. “Where is Joe?” he asked. Shola had seen this coming, she was not going to be a fool twice. “I can’t answer that.” she said looking the man right in the eyes. She was not about to lie to an Officer, but she damn well was not going to spill. The man smiled, “We just want to ask him some questions, Miss.” he said. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” she said, got her bag and walked out. She could sense fear at the gates of her heart, but she was not letting it in. No way.
Once in a cab, she called Joe and told him what had happened. He simply said “Ok. Make sure you are not followed.” Shola looked through the rear windscreen of the cab all through the ride to the hospital. Her little stunt only bought them two days. On Thursday, Shola got back from work to find Inspector Frank and a lady having a chat with Joe. “Good afternoon, Miss.” he said, “Hello, Inspector.” Shola said flippantly. Now the fear was back and ramming the gates of her heart. “Glad you joined us.” he said smiling. “We would like to ask you a few questions, Shola.” the lady spoke. Shola flashed Joe a look and he nodded slightly. She and Joe had prepared their stories of the happenings from that Thursday at Buju’s, Joe had assumed the police would find him eventually and they had to be ready for them.
Shola told the police how she had tried to reach Joe all of Friday night and had then gone to his place on Saturday morning and found him passed out on the bathroom floor. “I had then rushed him here.” she finished. “Hmm. Lucky you.” Inspector Frank said to Joe, “I wish I had such a girlfriend.” he added grinning at Joe, “Fiancée.” Joe corrected with a straight face. “Ok. Let’s run through this one last time, shall we?” the lady said facing Joe. “You went to Sage’s Creek for drinks and to play some pool?” she asked “That’s right” Joe replied, “You raised a fire alarm…” she said, “I heard someone shout fire, I echoed it and pulled the fire alarm by the pool table.” Joe corrected, “Ok. Then you exited by the stairs.” she said, “Yes.” Joe said. “At this point you heard gunshots.” Inspector Frank took over. “No. I heard gunshots after I pulled the alarm, then I made for the exit.” Joe said.
“Then you ran out the exit.” the Inspector said, “Yes.” Joe replied. “And got stabbed?” he asked, “I was running down the stairs, like I said, there were other people running out and in the stampede, I tripped and fell. That was when I felt the pain.” Joe explained. “And you didn’t see who did it?” the lady asked. Joe shrugged. “Then you ran?” Inspector Frank asked. “Yes. To my car. Drove home.” Joe replied. “Ok. What next?” he asked. At this point a female doctor came in and told the Officers their time was up. “You promised 20mins and it’s almost an hour now.” she said holding the door open. Shola almost let out a sigh of relief. “I tried to patch myself up. That’s all I can remember before I woke up here.” Joe still answered. “Thank you for your time, Joe.” Inspector Frank said rising, he offered a handshake, Joe showed him a plaster-bound hand. “Oh! Sorry.” the Officer said with a smile.
“Thank you, doctor. Have a good evening, Miss.” the Inspector said as he made to leave with his partner. At the door he stopped making Joe frown, “One last thing, Joe, kindly hang around,” then to Shola “Here’s my card, in the event he remembers anything else.” Now Joe was furious, “Am I under house arrest?” he asked. “Nothing of the likes. Just extend us some courtesy by letting us know if you have to travel. Thank you.” he said and left. The lady doctor apologized for not coming earlier, checked Joe’s eyes, then left. “So we have to inform them before traveling?” Shola asked when they were alone. “We shall do no such thing.” Joe said laying down. Shola could not shake off the worry, she was still a bit cold from fear’s attack on her heart. God knew she didn’t have Joe’s kind of heart that was impenetrable to fear.
The next day, Shola was at work when Dave called in. It was bad news – Chima and a girl had been found dead in a hotel room in Abuja. No doubt, it was the Malian connection, they meant business. According to Dave, the body had showed signs of torture. Still no news on Esosa. Joe realized his position; he was the only available target left in the zone. Well, it was time he changed that. Immediately Dave hung up, he called OJ, “Dude, just get any visa on that passport today. Anywhere outside the continent.” he ordered. Next call was to Shola. “Babe, where are you?” he asked, Shola was a little surprised by the question but answered “At my desk.” “Gone to lunch yet?” he asked, it was 1:04pm. “No, catching up on some work.” she replied. “I need you to run a quick errand for me, please.” he said.
She though of the last errand she had run for him and the encounter with Inspector Frank. “What do you need?” she asked, “Do you have the keys to that house on you?” he asked referring to the house he had hid out after the incident. “Yes, In my bag, I think.” she replied and before he said it, she knew what he wanted, “I need the pistol.” he said.