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At the reception, the men of the FCID introduced themselves and stated their mission.
“Alright. Shall we?”
“We’ll have to put these on, Sir” one of the two men said.
“It’s formality, Sir, we apologise” the other said, as the first man made to snap the cuffs on Zach’s wrists.
“Just a moment, I am going to take my jacket off. I’d like it draped over the cuffs” Zach said.
Both men stepped back, alert as Zach slowly took his jacket off, placed it on a couch then stretched out his hands.
The officer applied the handcuffs, then helped Zach drape his jacket over them.
The last time he had been cuffed, he thought, was when he had willingly surrendered, like now, for Zaneta’s sake.
“We must warn you, there’s a lot of press outside” the first office spoke again.
“Gentlemen, I understand” Zach said.
Outside, the questions were fired en masse:
“Why did you kidnap the VP’s daughter?”
“Who do you work for?”
“Were you both dating?”
“Did you both plan it?”
Zach zoned out till he was put behind the unmarked police car and whisked away.
Whatever happened they would keep each other’s secrets. She would not tell about his involvement in the kidnap and he would not tell she was responsible for Henry’s death. They both would not tell Henry, hired by Tunji, had killed Mike nor about his involvement with Matilda and Mike while Tunji made sure all this went away.
“I love Zan, I’d never do anything thing to hurt her or put her in harms way” Zach said to the first question after the formality of introductions. Beside him was the lawyer Zaneta had brought to Sweden with her. He had walked them through their version of the events, coached them, drilled them on the flight back, till he was satisfied they were ready.
“So, what happened?” the investigating police officer asked.
“We were in Port Harcourt for a weekend, celebrating my third year work anniversary at my job”
“Facility Manager, Skybridge Inc.”
The IPO took notes, “Go on, Sir” she said. Zach hoped she wouldn’t look too deep into the ownership of the company.
“While there, I reached out to a friend whom I knew stayed sometimes in PH when he was in the country, Mike. He said he was in town. I let him know I was leaving the next day and couldn’t make time to come see him -“
“Why did you reach out if you had no plans to visit?” she interrupted
“Courtesy. If I knew he was so far away, I wouldn’t have bothered”
“But, even after you realised he was far, you went still”
“Yes, he was insistent and he offered a chopper ride to bring us for free”
“A chopper ride?”
“Yes, a helicopter ride to where he was staying”
“You see, Zan had never been on a chopper before, so I thought it would make for some romantic memories. When I mentioned it to her, she was excited. I couldn’t refuse her” he said using “Zan” a pet name he had practised for this interrogation. Barrister Ronel had advised it would convey endearment for Zaneta.
“I see. And when you arrived?”
“He was nice to us, he and Zan got along well. Even slightly flirty, I must confess I was a little jealous” he said with a shy smile.
The IPO looked at him for a whole minute, his expression didn’t change. She took more notes. “Go on”
“While Zan was asleep, the second night we arrived at Mike’s holiday home -“
“Second night? Weren’t you supposed to be back by Sunday night or Monday morning at the most? You did say it was a weekend get away”
“Well, we had such a good time, we both decided to extend the trip for a few days”
“How many days? The extension”
“Two. We decided to return Tuesday evening”
“So, this day was which?”
“Ok. So, Monday night…?”
“Yeah. I and Mike were gaming and having some drinks. Next thing I know, I woke up locked up, bound and gagged”
“Yes. I was shocked because Mike and I had no issue whatsoever. In fact my first thought was about Zan. I was concerned, like maybe he was going to rape her or something, never even realised it was politically inclined”
“You didn’t think it could have been? Mr. Zach?”
“No. Never crossed my mind. How could it?”
“How do you mean ‘How could it’?”
“Yeah! I didn’t even know who she was”
“You lost me there, Sir”
“Let me help you, Miss. My client was unaware of whose daughter Zaneta was at the time” Barr. Ronel put in.
“Is that so?” the IPO asked Zach.
He shook his head wryly. “I know right? How could I not have known, yeah?”
“I’m curious” the IPO put in genuinely.
“If you know Zan, you’d know she is very private about that. Her co-workers, even her employers never knew. Aside a few trusted friends. Go through all of her social media accounts, zilch. She never mentions her connection to the VP”
The IPO scribbled some more. “When did you find out?”
“When Mike came to check on me. He mentioned it, that was when I knew what he was up to. To be honest, I was surprised, and that’s putting it lightly” he said with a shy smile.
“No one else came to the house throughout your stay?”
“Not that I know off”
“So, Mike was operating alone?”
“I wish we could ask him” Zach replied after a shrug and a pause.
“Permit me to take you back a bit, Mr. Zach”
“Sure” he said, sipping some water.
“You said only a few trusted people knew who she really was. What does that say about you?”
He shrugged. “What can I say? I guess like the average woman out there, she has doubts about the sincerity of any man who proclaims love to her. I don’t blame her”
“But, if you ask her now, I am sure she doesn’t feel any such inhibitions any more”
“And you know this how?” the IPO asked cynically.
“Because, I put my life on the line to get her out of there”
“Really? Please, tell me how you did that”
“After a while, I can’t be sure how long, you see, I was locked up and my watch was taken, so was my phone, so I had no idea how long. Mike came to ask me to help him get Zan to cooperate as she had refused to make a proper ransom call.
“I feigned anger at Zan for keeping me in the dark as to who she was, my surprise was genuine and Mike knew that, so he believed my anger too. I got a chance to get out of captivity and to see Zan. I can not tell you how relieved I was to find her in good health and spirit. I then proceeded to put up a little act to scare her without letting her know my own past ordeal and present predicament. But I was able to wink at her, she got the message and played along.
“That night, I jumped Mike, he had a gun and we got in a fight. I was able to disarm him, but not before these” he said pointing to the scars on his face “Here’s the surprise, though – two shots rang out and Mike died right before my eyes” Zach explained.
“He was shot? By who?”
“He just said he didn’t know” Barr. Ronel interjected.
“So what did you do?” the IPO asked, ignoring the lawyer’s statement.
“I ran like hell. Grabbed Zan, got in Mike’s car and drove off”
“What is the address of this place? Mike’s house”
“I don’t know. Like I said he sent me descriptions to a heliport from where we were lifted to the home”
“Then how did you find your way out?”
“You have a military background, do you not?” she asked without looking up.
“Yes, I do. 7 years. UN Peace Keeping tour in Sudan and a handful of classified Ops I am not at liberty to disclose” he said, mentioning the highlights.
She looked up at him.
“Why did you leave?”
“Sealed Military records. I can’t discuss that either”
“5 years ago”
“So why didn’t you turn up on the night she turned up?”
“Oh! I had a barrage of reasons. This was something I and Zan discussed after she reached her folks and they had sent a jet for her. To be honest, we argued over it before parting ways that night. Finally she agreed to go to the airport alone while I went to seek medical help”
“Would it be too much to ask for specifics, Mr. Zach?” the IPO asked sarcastically.
“One, I had lied at work about my location. Two, I was quite shaken up by the presence of the shooter. I needed to reach my contacts to find out if they knew why anyone would be shooting at Mike and/or myself. Three, the VP would be quite livid and I could only imagine what he thought or still thinks of me. I couldn’t just waltz into his home. Four, because of numbers two and three, I had to go into hiding for a bit. Five, I didn’t want anything that would become politicised, deepen rivalry and animosity and likely destabilise the nation”
“Quite patriotic, I see” she threw at him.
“That’s why I joined the army” he shot back.
“Why did you decide to surface now? Records show you came in from Sweden”
“Got tired of running, and truthfully, I missed Zan” he replied with a smile.
“We will have to keep you for a few days while we verify the information you have given us” she said, for the first time, acknowledging the presence of the other policemen in the room.
She took down more notes and asked that Zach be processed for detention pending the outcome of the investigation.
“You’ll also have to leave your passport with us.You are not permitted to travel without informing us”
Zach pulled out his passport and placed it on the table. “Believe me, I came for her, I have no plans of leaving”
“Are you familiar with the Stockholm Syndrome, Mr. Zach?” she asked rising and packing up her stuff.
“Yes, I am. Why do you ask?” he said getting to his feet and starring down at her across the table with a level look.
“Never mind” she said and hurried out of the room.
As Zach was being processed, Barr. Ronel’s phone rang. He took it, looked over at Zach confused and handed it to him.
Zach took it, one look at the number and he knew who it was though it was a foreign one. “Hello” he said.
“Good job, man” Malik’s voice came over the line.
“Thank you” Zach said, not completely surprised Malik had heard what was just discussed with the IPO in private. He looked at the two officers who had been in the room with them. One or both of them was an informant. He walked away from the group.
“You gave nothing away” Malik said, sounding quite impressed. “That’s a beautiful story you just reeled out. Oscar material”
“What do you need, man?”
“What exactly happened with Mike, though? The truth”
“He turned, tried to leverage for some cash. An AlphaTrag hitman cut him down” Zach explained lowering his voice.
“Have a good life, man. Stay out of trouble” Malik said and rung off.
With an expressionless face, Zach returned and handed the phone back to Barr. Ronel.
“Who was that? And how did he get my number or know you were with me?” he asked.
“Trust me, you are better off not knowing” Zach said, and walked deeper into the heart of the facility led by the officer who’d processed him.
The IPO looked through the window as Zach and Zaneta held each other in a loving embrace.
“Please, don’t kiss” she whispered, in hopes.
The couple, who were downstairs at the car park and couldn’t hear her anyway, went ahead and kissed deep and long.
“She corroborated his story, yeah?” her boss who had just walked into her office and seen what she was looking at asked her.
She turned, threw her boss a quick salute before returning to watch Zach pull open the passenger door of a red Mercedes Benz CLA 2015, help Zaneta in, walk around it and get in the driver’s seat.
“Every fucking detail, hey!” she said, frustrated.
“Why are you feeling all worked up by this? The victim and the suspect have just proven to you there was no crime. Less work for you, you should be glad” he said.
“Not beyond reasonable doubt, Sir” she said defiant.
“Let it go, Tolu. You have a long career ahead, the next 8 years of it will very likely be under that lady’s father, and he and the President are in that office, to a large extent, because of what happened to her and how she handled it. Be smart” he said and walked away.
She looked out the window in time to catch the plate number of the red Mercedes as it exited the gates – “Zaneta“
“Heeeeeeeeyyyy” she said under her breath.
What her boss didn’t tell her and never will was that she had been chosen for the job by him and he had just gotten off the phone with the Vice President who had thanked him for handling the case excellently.
A lot of things were yet above Tolu’s pay-grade.
In Memory of Dayo Ajose
A Fellow Warrior