‘Have you ever heard of the Sting Syndicate?’ Colonel Bala did not bother with preambles. His subordinates in the room would fill in the blank spaces should Tunde Smart require them to do so.
He nodded, uncertain. Unsure as to where the colonel was going with his query. He kept his mouth shut and waited. More detail would soon be supplied he reasoned.
And so it was, Colonel Bala nodded at Major Samson the finance director, and like a good orchestra, the man started singing on point. He did not consult the folder he had on his lap as he spoke in an animated fashion.
‘Sting Syndicate, is actually called Sting, we supplied the syndicate part when it became apparent that they are a nationwide criminal outfit specializing in, but not limited to prostitution, kidnapping, armed robbery, and human trafficking. They have presence in all our major cities and states and their activities have caught the eye of the brass. We need to decommission this criminal outfit ASAP.’
Tunde had heard of Sting, in fact, he had been involved with five of their agents months before. Two had not been so lucky; they had to be tagged and bagged. Two were in prison awaiting their day in court. He doubted that day would materialize; still he hoped that justice would prevail. The last one escaped. His escape had haunted Tunde for days, weeks even.
The officers working with the two caught had been unable to get any information out of them. Tunde had asked for interrogation privileges and he had been denied. Now all of a sudden he was being briefed about the organization. He knew bullshit when he saw it; unfortunately, he was sitting royally in it.
‘We have agents staking them out, and systematically putting them out of business. I was involved with them like four months back and wanted to pursue aggressive leads I had on them, I was shut down and put on more pressing assignment. I recall agent Thompson was assigned the case. He is a capable officer, why bring me in?’
Colonel Bala coughed. He looked to his subordinates for help, but none was offered. Major Samson sat still, his face stoic. All the men in the room mirrored the same look except for Akindayomi Adedigba, he was the only one who retained his smile. Tunde turned to him when no answer was forthcoming.
‘Agent Thompson was killed last week.’ His expression changed briefly. ‘They made it look like an accident and we also were almost fooled, sadly. But now, we have evidence of foul play and we want you to finish the assignment agent Thompson started.’
Tunde was incredulous, ‘whoo… whoo… whoa! There’s nothing on his death in any of the news dailies or on the channels…’
‘That is because agent Thompson was operating deep undercover. We didn’t notice he was gone till he missed two scheduled meetings. That’s when our new agent on site in Lagos got a little hotheaded and went in search of the agent. He discovered the dead man and reported it to us. We swung into action and salvaged what we could.
‘Unfortunately, the perps who killed him ransacked his apartment and made away with all the documents he had been stealing from Sting. Everything.’ Akindayomi explained.
Tunde’s face had turned hard. He knew they worked in a precarious field the other agents and him who decided to work as field agents. Still he hated it when the news of an agent who was killed was shared with him. He always lost it.
Six months after joining the Agency, his partner had been killed. He had gone out to relieve himself and his partner had seen the criminal they were after. He didn’t wait for Tunde and went in for the arrest. He was killed, Tunde lost it, went marginally insane and kept looking for the criminals. He caught up with them a year later and in a rather poetic way, justice was served. He killed the men in a gun battle.
As he sat there in that room observing the men, it became apparent to him that they were playing on his emotions. They wanted him to execute the leaders of the gang and crush it. He looked all the men in the eye starting from Akindayomi, when he had observed all the men in the room, his gaze rested on the DG himself.
Colonel Bala had been standing through the meeting. A man in his early sixties, his agility betrayed his age. He had in his hand his favoured Cuban cigar that traced a thin line of smoke up into the ceiling. He was the only one who dared smoke in the building. His position of authority afforded him that right. He held Tunde’s gaze for a while, finally he spoke.
‘You are not to execute anyone on this mission should you accept it, you will be guarding the head of the crime outfit from our agents and other enemies he may have made along the way. That is your mission.’
Tunde knew there was no negotiating with the DG, so when Colonel Bala had said ‘should you accept,’ his spirit had lifted only to come crashing down as the man completed his mission. He had to be a guardian angel for a criminal that specialized in bringing tears to countless faces. He started to protest…
‘Dismissed.’ The colonel said, took a long drag of his cigar and exhaled into the ceiling. He cocked his head to observe Tunde at the door. ‘By the way son, you are already on the timer. Talk to Margaret on your way out, she has your necessary itinerary. He pulled another long drag of his cigar, staring at the ceiling. By the time he looked down after exhaling, Tunde was gone.
He crushed the cigar then, his visage change and the temperature in the room changed quickly. ‘Why the hell aren’t we blowing these perps heads off?’ He was staring at Major Samson.
‘You must have heard of Octagon Rising sir,’ Major Samson coughed as he started his explanation. ‘Four months ago when agent Tunde went after the Sting members in Minna and killed two, what we didn’t know was that those two sacrificed themselves that the one may get away…’
‘I don’t quite follow,’ colonel Bala leaned forward across the table. His look still menacing, he looked like he may change his mind recall Tunde and order an all-out hit on the crime syndicate. Major Samson’s explanation was what he awaited before making that decision.
‘The one that got away made away with vital national information sir; a list of all our covert agents, blueprints about the Kano artillery store, and the detonation sequence of the nuclear warhead we just designed.’ Major Samson sat back, beaten.
Colonel Bala Blanched. ‘What! How did they come in contact with all those, how did they know…?’ He slumped into his seat. He had ordered Margaret to detain Tunde with her and await his command. He had troops all over the country waiting to smoke out the entire syndicate and now this. He threw up his hand in the air defeated. He didn’t think he would have to give the order to babysit a criminal for the sake of national security.
He picked his intercom, dialed a number and said, ‘send him to Lagos.’ He dropped the phone looked meaningfully at Major Samson and gritted his teeth as he spoke, ‘Pray. Pray that he finds it fast. Otherwise, this whole shit you have got us all in, will blow up in your face. He waved both hands in a gesture of dismissal. ‘Dismissed.’
When all the men had left, he opened his drawer brought out his service gun, a 9mm beretta, he toyed with it for a while, then, businesslike, he corked the gun opened his mouth, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.
As Tunde sat in the airport, waiting for his flight to Lagos to be called, he found he was anxious. His anxiety stemmed from the fact that he would have to contend with Yewa in Lagos. He sighed, closed his eyes and waited for public address system to buzz him in. He couldn’t shake the scripture… It is better to dwell on the rooftop, than to live with a contentious woman…
He must have fallen asleep, because a lady he had helped on his way in and made small talk with before going to sit by himself stood in front of him, peering weirdly at him. His instincts had kicked in and he had to react quickly to stop himself from hurting her. He managed a smile.
‘Didn’t you say you’re going to Lagos?’ She queried, still standing over him, refusing to budge.
Tunde wondered if she had any inkling that she had been seconds away from death or mercifully, broken limbs. He studied her face, no, she didn’t realize it. Ignorance, he decided then, could be bliss at times. At times.
He stretched lazily and yawned. Rose to his feet. He practically had to push her away for the lady to move. ‘Thanks,’ he croaked. He made to move away, but she stopped him.
‘Oh no, you don’t. Don’t even dare.’
Tunde stopped, confused. He turned round and peered curiously at the lady.
She was smiling and pointing at her luggage. He understood then, she had woken him because she needed a butler. He sighed. No good deed goes unpunished. He strolled back, grabbed her luggage and asked, ‘shall we?’
She pantomimed and they left the waiting hall to board their plane. Each step was damning for Tunde, the lady was however cheerful, a complete chatterbox. She kept boring him with her prattle, Tunde didn’t hear a word.
They got to the plane and boarded, mercifully, their seats were separate. Tunde sat by the window, heaved a sigh, he would touch down in less than an hour, and he was not yet ready to tackle Yewa. He wasn’t looking forward to Lagos.
She found him immediately the plane landed in Lagos. Tunde felt like slamming her head against the window of the plane. He had waited for everyone on the plane to go out before standing. The very thought of Yewa and her antics scared him. He braced himself, stood up, got out his bag from the overhead luggage box and there she was.
She was smiling at him again, winked this time; her manner almost apologetic.
He sighed audibly, ‘if I see you near my house, you do realise I’ll have to marry you.’ It was a statement.
She continued smiling, did not respond to his comment, the box was there beside her, waiting to be tended by him.
He shook his head, gestured for her to pass and grabbed her box as he followed her out the aisle off the plane.
They got down, went through customs, and he had to wait with her at the luggage stand. Her bigger boxes had yet to be released. He was seething as he stood there. There was a lot to be done, still, this strange lady was holding him hostage, he thought.
He couldn’t even remember her name. He was sure she must have told him though. Some days, he knew he wasn’t a good agent. Or maybe his senses had been dulled by the fear of Yewa, at any rate, he would soon have to confront her.
‘Tunde!’ She was calling him. ‘Tunde, that’s my box, can you please get it…’
He gave her a fleeting look, saw the box rolling towards him and grabbed it off the roller. Suddenly it hit him as she led the way away from the luggage stand. Tunde was shocked he hadn’t seen or noticed earlier.
He increased his pace, caught up to her and said, ‘I don’t know what you’re playing at, but, I’m not your husband or lover. I don’t know who I’m supposed to make jealous, and I do not care. Good day.’
He was gone before she could respond. She smiled ruefully as she watched the distance between them widen. She would see him again, it was only a matter of time, Lagos isn’t that big, she reasoned. Time to go face her overbearing boyfriend she thought. Too bad Tunde had punked out in the final minutes, she was sure Dare would have suffered a heart seizure. She shook her head as she grabbed her luggage by the handles and walked out of the airport.
Tunde breathed in the fresh air as he got out of the airport. Lagos air was distinct and affected his lungs differently. How? He couldn’t tell, he just knew, he was in love with the polluted air, and no argument, would convince him otherwise. He called a taxi, and against his better judgement, gave her address. He had to be a father to his son after all.
As they taxied smoothly out of the airport, he saw her hugging another guy. ‘Damn!’ He cursed under his breath hitting his hand against the dashboard of the car, as a strange sensation overtook him.
‘Oga, se kosi?’ The driver asked him, eyeing him warily.
‘Ko si sir, e ma binu.’ He apologised for hitting the man’s car, and made a mental note to own his emotion in future. He had been a basket case since her call last night, he needed to focus so as to be able to get done, all that needed to be done. He exhaled deeply. She awaited his coming.