Joe sat up in bed, picked up his iPad mini and pulled up the notes he’d made for his move. The plan was pretty well laid out. He had called up Razak and set it all up. He had sent the keys to the BMW X6 to Razak through Deb. Razak was to get someone to drive it to the Mall in Ikeja, as a distraction, and then courier the keys to Shola using her office address. While the BMW was heading for Ikeja from the Hospital on the Island, Razak was to bring another vehicle to Berger to pick him up and drive him to Port Harcourt. He knew by now the police and anyone else would have noticed his disappearance from the hospital and would be watching the Airport. So he was going by road. Deb would drive him to the pick-up point at Berger in the morning. Shola would be with him till he joins Razak.
Shola felt him move on his side of the bed. She could see the glow of light from his iPad – he was still awake, working on something or the other. “I wish you didn’t have to go!” she blurted as tears welled up in her eyes. “Baby, you know I really have to do this, if not I’d stay right here with you.” he replied, placing a hand on her arm. He put away his iPad and moved over to her, cuddling her from behind while he told her how beautiful things would be in their new life in Europe if she agreed to join him later. He succeeded in painting a very vivid image in her mind, an image she didn’t mind at all. She had never heard a guy speak so passionately and in clear terms of what they could achieve together. He seemed to have it all mapped out to the very last detail. Those were the last thoughts on her mind, the last words on his lips as they both fell asleep, her back to him like two spoons.
“You go first, I’ll be a while.” Joe said as they both rose. His alarm had gone off at 3:30am, he’d turned it off and woken her. He’d asked her to lead them in prayers, which she had done, asking God for protection and safety and now it was bath time. “You should not get that wet, abi?” she said pointing at the swath of plaster around his thigh. “Nope. Will use the same method like in the hospital.” he said pulling out a set of small towels with a smile. She laughed. “Ok, let me rush.” she said, heading for the bath. Seeing her run to the bath in his boxers and T-shirt made him chuckle. He placed a call to Deb’s room waking her up to prepare for their departure. That done, he called Razak who assured him all was set on his end of things. Joe felt a tinge of anticipation; the plan was on the roll. There was no going back.
It was his turn to take a bath. He walked past Shola who was wrapped in a towel and into the bathroom. Slowly but effectively, he got cleaning his body with the small towels. Shola peeked in, curious to see if he was managing fine. He had his back to the door but heard it open, he made no attempt to look. “That’s tedious.” she said, “You can say that again.” he replied laughing. At that moment one of the towels fell to the floor; she picked it, then decided she’d just help him clean his back to hurry things up. Joe felt the towel move across his back, he tried to rein in his passion by making small talk about breakfast. “Done!” she suddenly said, handing him the towel. As she made to leave, he held her arm and stepped out of the bath, turning her around. With his other hand, he undid her towel. They stood looking at each other a while then, slowly he kissed her and brought them down to the floor.
As Shola washed up in the bathroom, she could hear Joe ordering coffee and toast. She could not believe she had just had sex with him. She had held off this long only to crumble on the last day. What if she never saw him again? She would have effectively doubled the list of guys she had slept with and had ended up leaving her. She wanted to pray, Heaven was the only place she could look to at the moment, but she could not find the words. She made a mental note to find a pharmacy later and find an emergency contraception. She was not willing to make her life more complex than it already was. She got back to the room and got a quick kiss from Joe who was now on his mobile phone, he tapped his watch; a sign that she needed to hurry up so they could leave. He was already dressed and was packing up his stuff. She found her clothes and started pulling them on.
It was 4:56am when Deb pulled into a filling station close to Joe’s rendezvous point. They had driven in silence, each one deep in their own thoughts. Deb had driven pretty fast to meet up with the 5am pick up plan. She handled her Acura TL Sedan really well, Shola was quite impressed. “Turn off the lights, keep the engine running.” Joe said, sitting up for the first time. He had lain on the back seat all through the ride while Shola sat up in front with Deb. Most of the journey, the lovers had linked hands, a gesture Joe had initiated to reassure Shola. He had no doubts about her, he knew the issue was her own doubts about him. He knew he could fix that once he made it out of the country, he’ll prove to her that he meant every promise he had ever made her. He suddenly felt a twinge of regret: the business he had started and all the cash he’d put in it were as good as gone now.
At 5:15am, 15 minutes after the planned pick up, the trio were still at the filling station. It was getting tense. Joe tried a call to Razak, but got a busy tone, he didn’t like it one bit. He decided he’d give another 5 minutes then activate his plan B for getting out of Lagos – take Deb’s car and drive himself to the Airport in Port Harcourt. But first, he’d have to get the girls a cab. “Deb, in another 5 minutes, I need you to turn the car around and drive to the closest taxi park around.” Joe said. “Ok.” Deb replied. “What’s wrong?” Shola asked getting worried. He squeezed her hand, said “Change of plans.” then let go and got the pistol out of his bag. He checked it quickly before slipping it into his jacket pocket. He scanned the surroundings, everything looked normal. “When I say ‘Drive’, turn around and go as fast as you can.” he said checking his watch.
With a minute to spare and Joe’s eyes scanning the highway up ahead, his phone beeped.
“Black Xterra. Hazard lights on.”
read the SMS from Razak. Joe looked up at the highway. A vehicle fitting that description just pulled onto the shoulder of the road. “He’s here.” Joe said making the girls sigh in relieve. He observed the SUV for a minute then called Razak, this time he picked up. “Hello.” came the familiar voice, “What took you so long?” Joe asked. “Okey had Police issues, had to rush there and settle things.” Razak replied. “Okey drove the X6?” Joe asked. “Yes. Got stopped at Ikeja-under-bridge.” Razak explained. “Aii.” Joe said and hung up. He planted a kiss on Deb’s cheek, another on Shola’s lips and stepped out of the car with his bag.
Shola watched her lover walk away with a slight limp. The floodgates burst open and the tears came pouring down. She licked her lips tasting for him; making her mind flash back to the events from earlier in the day. At that moment, she knew what her decision was – She would definitely go join him in Switzerland. She noticed Deb looking at her, but paid her no mind. “I’ll miss him too, you know? He is like a brother to me.” Deb said. Shola made no attempt to respond. The instructions were simple: The moment the vehicle Joe gets into drives off, they were to drive directly to the Best Western Hotel on Allen Avenue, where rooms had been reserved in their names, and stay indoors till he called them. She heard the central lock engage as Deb shifted the gear from ‘P’.
Joe walked away from Deb’s car towards the parked SUV on the highway. His bag suddenly felt heavier. He knew he was walking away from a lot but then, all that would mean nothing if the Malians laid hold of him. Seeing Shola again was now completely in her hands, if she wanted to be with him, he’d make it happen, if not, there was nothing he could do. He was now a few steps from the Xterra, instinctively he felt for his gun. He looked up and down the road as he closed the distance between himself and the rear door of the vehicle. He had his travel bag slung on his left shoulder but still used his left hand to get the car door, leaving his right hand free to reach his weapon should anyone suddenly attack them. As he pulled the car door open, he noticed a shape in the trunk section. Before he could make out the shape, something hit him in the chest.
Deb and Shola heard the shots. Shola was not sure if they were three or four, but was sure they were gunshots. She saw Joe had dropped his bag and was pointing his pistol into the SUV, then it drove off and Joe stepped onto the road, now clearly shooting at it. Suddenly, the SUV made a swerve, ran into the concrete road divider then slammed into the rear of a truck with a loud crash. Shola was reaching for the door knob when she suddenly felt the car shoot in the direction of the highway. Deb had responded quicker than she had and was driving towards Joe who had collapsed onto the road and was crawling towards his bag on its shoulder. Fortunately for him, all oncoming vehicles on hearing the shots, had either screeched to a halt (with their occupants disembarking and running for their lives) or had made a U-turn and sped off in the other direction, so he escaped being run over.
Joe reached his travel bag as blood oozed out of his body; he spat some and tried to keep his airway clear. “What the fuck!” he managed in something that was more of a croak as he lay on his back and rested his head on his bag. He had spotted the assailant a little too late, taken one shot to the chest before he could get out of the way. He had swiftly drawn his gun and returned fire, sending a bullet through the man’s left eye and out the back of his head. The driver, who was obviously not Razak, had then fired at him hitting him in the stomach before driving off. Instinctively, Joe had gone after him and fired 6 shots. Clearly, he had gotten the driver too. He didn’t know why, but somehow he started laughing. Deb and Shola appeared and were half carrying, half dragging him into the back of the Acura. He pointed at his bag, Shola swiftly picked it up before getting in.
Deb was racing down a road looking out for any sign of a hospital as Shola got out a few clothes from Joe’s bag and put them over the two puncture wounds. She had Joe’s head on her knees and there was blood all over her skirt, hands, top, everywhere. A lot of tears too. Joe had stopped laughing. She noticed there was blood coming out of his nostrils as well as his mouth. She felt the car make a sharp turn right then screech to a halt, she looked through the window and saw Deb had pulled into a hospital. Deb was out of the car in a flash, running into the hospital. She was back in a minute with a doctor and two nurses. The doctor took one look at Joe, shook his head and said they could not take him, “Gunshot wounds.” he said. He was however, kind enough to refer them to the General Hospital in Ikeja.
“My PSP” Joe repeated in weak voice, Shola almost didn’t hear and when she did, found it hard to believe the words. Seeing he would not quit, she got it and handed it to him, he switched it on, found what he wanted and handed it to her. She looked at the screen; it was a list of his bank accounts, User IDs and Passwords. “Tokens are there….” he pointed at his bag. “Joe, let’s get you treated first, we’ll talk about this later, please.” she replied, wiping his nose. “If I don’t make it, I want you to have it. Move it all to your accounts.” he said amidst bloody coughs. “Save your strength, we’re almost there!” Deb shouted from the driver’s seat. Shola only nodded, squeezing Joe’s hand in her’s, she could not stop the tears. She planted a kiss on the scar on his forehead, “Please, don’t leave me.” she cried. He gave her hand a small squeeze in return giving her some hope.
The personnel at the General Hospital insisted they got a Police report for the case. They however took Joe into the theatre. Deb left to try and get that while Shola sat in the waiting room weeping silently, his blood still all over her. She wanted to call Pastor Keji, but the only phone on her was Joe’s, which a nurse had given her along with his watch, ring and belt. She’d forgotten her’s in Deb’s car, taking only Joe’s bag because she knew there was money in it and she’d need to pay for stuff. So she called the first +41 number she found on the call log. Dave picked up and she gave it to him straight, the bare facts. “Ok. Please, be calm. Let’s pray he pulls through. Wipe the logs and any other thing on that phone. I’ll be in touch.” he said. She did as she was told then called Kola asking that he sends her Pastor Keji’s numbers.
Shola looked up and found Pastor Keji running towards her. It had been about 20 minutes since she had called Pastor Keji with the news. She ran into her pastor’s arms. Both of them then sat holding hands in the waiting room. Pastor Keji continuously spoke words of encouragement as Shola cried and prayed intermittently. About 45 minutes after Deb left, she returned with the report and a police officer. An hour after Joe was taken away, a doctor came to the waiting room and called Shola’s name. She jerked out of her seat, heart in mouth, eyes wide in fright. “What is your relationship with the patient?” he asked. Deb and Pastor Keji stood beside her as she managed: “He’s my fiance. Is he going to be alright?” her mouth was completely dry. “And them?” he asked looking at the other ladies. “My pastor and my sister.” she replied tearfully. The ladies nodded in agreement. “Come with me.” he said moving off.
Shola followed on unsteady feet, helped along by Deb and Pastor Keji. She had never known such fear.