There was disquiet in the room. All the men seated round the table were having a heated discussion. Most were unhappy to have been pulled away from their homes, families or vacation at such short notice for an unscheduled meeting. Their argument raged as they waited for their leader to join them.
The man walked in and quiet descended on the room, moving at the speed of light from the door to the farthest reach of the room. They all fell silent and watched as the man walked slowly to his seat at the head of the table. He sat down, checked his weight on the chair before balancing and reclining. He turned to the man on his left.
‘Abel, what is this I hear that we can’t stop a machine we set in motion?’ His face was stern.
The man shifted uncomfortably. Although he had advised against working with the crime syndicate, he had been assigned the role of overseer of its activities. He stuttered as he tried to explain the embarrassing situation.
‘Speak!’ The leader glared.
‘I sent Senator Hamzat to Ismaila to warn him off the agents and make him stop his vendetta against the NIA. The senator’s job was to inform him that we stood at a disadvantage if the covert agents got inspired and decided to crack the case. He wouldn’t listen and the man barely returned to me alive.
‘We have tried locating the kingpin himself, only a handful of his trusted men know where he is right now, and they are all with him as we speak.’ He shrugged. ‘The damned idiot has gone into hiding after setting up a killing machine.’
‘You will watch your language in this house.’ The leader admonished. He turned away from the man and looked far down the table. ‘Commissioner, I’m hearing there’s a lot of fireworks in Jos, what do you know of this?’
The commissioner stood, he was not in the same league as the man on the leader’s left who had explained himself seated. He was more like a runt in the company of those men. He straightened his shirt, tilted subserviently forward and proceeded to speak.
The man beside the commissioner was appalled at the man’s tardiness and made his reservation known. ‘Oga, talk!’
He got an icy stare for his trouble from the leader and he held his peace. Sulking.
The leader returned his gaze to the standing commissioner, ‘yes, so what do you have to report.’
The commissioner spoke on cue. ‘Sir, we are currently investigating the incident. The man involved, an agent of the NIA named Efe Charles is currently getting required medical attention to get back on his feet.’
The mood in the room became tenser. The commissioner saw that the men had blanched visibly when he mentioned the agency. Even the leader was not immune. He felt pride swell through him as he continued.
‘My boys got to the place where shooting had been reported, saw and identified correctly a member of the NIA, he was supposed to go for a debriefing tomorrow morning…’
‘Was?’ The man to beside him interrupted him again. This time, the leader didn’t intervene.
The commissioner smiled. ‘Was.’ Then he continued his reportage. ‘The agent was supposed to be transferred to their facility tomorrow, but understanding the stakes, I positioned men who had been instructed to take a long walk right about now…’ He checked his wristwatch for effect.
‘Get to it!’ The leader was impatient. A lot rested on their secret not getting out, and the less agents and policemen working on their case, the better. He would contend with the international community and offer them deals they couldn’t refuse. Still, he needed his followers to perform on demand.
‘I haven’t gotten the report yet, I should be getting a briefing that the agent is dead soon.’ His face was smug.
‘Sit down.’ The leader had little patience for attention seeking men. He would get his due praise when the time was right, there was pressing matter to be attended to. He turned to another man at the table.
‘Tell me Emeka, what is happening with the shipment?’
Emeka stood, curtsied and spoke crisply. ‘The delivery is on point sir. Everything’s going according to plan. We have already contacted the group that would smuggle in the goods from the border. All that remains now is for the vessel to berth at the port, and we’ll be in business.’ He sat down.
The leader allowed himself a momentary smile. Emeka always delivered promptly and without any need for adulation. He was too committed to the cause to be bothered by such trifling.
His looked round the table, studying the men one after the other. His gaze finally rested on the man to his right. Their eyes locked, neither man eager to break the gaze, it was their power play ritual.
‘General, how are the troops coming? Is the morale high? Do we have our army?’
The general was calm. ‘We are good to go.’ It was all he said.
The commissioner took out his phone, apologetic. ‘I brought in my phone because of the report I am expecting.’ He held up the phone.
‘Answer it.’ The leader hissed.
‘Hello,’ the commissioner was eager. ‘What happened?’ The smiled evaporated from his face as he listened. He fell back into his seat as his knees buckled under him.
The man beside the commissioner helped himself to the policeman‘s phone, listened for a few seconds and asked aloud: ‘the agent escaped?.
Immediately, there was murmuring in the room. The leader shook his head, no matter how much he liked the commissioner, the man would have to go. The loss was just unacceptable, and he had the effrontery to break the news during their meeting. His plan had blown in his face. The leader shook his head for the policeman in pity. Adieu dear friend, he mused.
The man with the phone dropped the phone, paused for a few seconds before announcing, the agent escaped. And he got the policeman cannot verify whether he has captured the sniper after him or not. If he did, and he succeeds in breaking the man…’ He let his words trail.
The leader stood up. He looked at the general beside him. ‘See to it.’ He left the room without looking at any of the men.
Charles knew thanked his stars. He knew he was lucky but hadn’t realised just how much. Gun in hand, covered in blood, his whole body sore, the agent moved towards the door. His shoot first, ask questions later license had been activated, and if it hadn’t, too bad, whoever crossed him would pay dearly. He moved cautiously.
As he moved down the stair, taking two at a time, he could hear silent whispers coming from the next floor. He paused and oriented himself with the darkness, death still lurked at the hospital and he didn’t want his body getting tagged. He moved when his eyes had adjusted to the darkness.
He spied two men discussing at the far end of the lobby, they were strategically positioned to kill whoever tried escaping through the door. He watched them a bit and saw one of them handling a rifle, he peered intently, he was sure the rifle had a scope. He made to rush them when suddenly his training kicked in.
He sat still and turned round; he turned just in time to see the shadow move. He jumped, rolling as he landed on the floor. He had barely stopped when he emptied the chamber of his gun in the general direction of the discussion men. He heard loud cries, good. He squeezed the trigger again. The gun clicked loudly. The chamber was empty.
He rushed towards the men he had shot at. He hoped they had both been hit dust particles filled the lobby. He tripped and fell. He was immobile as he raised his head to see he was staring into the barrel of the gun.
Charles froze and resigned to fate. He had given it his best shot. He watched as the gun swayed and fell away. Instinctively, he jumped away, vaulting with his hands. The round that was fired narrowly missed him. He grabbed the gun and looked at its owner. His eyes were still open but Charles could tell the way his head was askance that the man was dead.
He spied the man’s colleague several feet away, lying his face down. He trained his new gun on the man an approached the man. He got to the man, turned him and ascertained the man was dead. It started then.
A bullet whizzed past him, hitting the glass and shattering it into a million pieces another soon went beside him, hitting the floor. A third was closer still. Charles started crawling away. The sniper could not see him due to the dust and smoke, that was clouding his vision.
He realised his tactical advantage and sought to press it. He raised his gun and discovered to his dismay that the scope had been damaged. He cursed. He removed the scope and peered into the darkness and waited for the sniper to make a mistake. A scene from the movie the dogs of war played in his head. The patient would win this.
Odalo cursed himself for waiting so long. He had hesitated as he wanted a clear shot. The agent had acted on pure instinct and taken out his men. He now held the advantage Odalo conceded, knowing he had given away his position with those probing shots.
Charles counted to ten, took three deep breaths, counted to ten again, took the deep breath and continued in that fashion. He was calming his nerves. Soon he realised that either the sniper was content to just allow the dust clear or the man had escaped out of the building.
He fired a probing shot and immediately rolled away from the spot. The sniper retaliated almost immediately. He didn’t hear the noise like his gun reported, he just saw the hole a bullet punched into the wall and the light from the nozzle of the gun.
The suppressor did a wonderful job; still, it didn’t totally suppress the fire at the mouth of the gun. He trained his gun, fired two quick rounds and stood. This time, he ran towards the sniper.
Odalo realised his mistake as soon as he fired the round. He was about retreating when two rounds were fired. One pierced his left shoulder, the other knocked of his gun. He winced, tried to hold on to his gun, then as if seeing a horror movie, he watched as the agent, bloodied ran towards him: his gun trained.
Odalo made to stand, but the agent cocked the gun, ‘easy.’ It was all he had to do. Odalo gently stood. He was contemplating his next line of action. He didn’t expect what happened next.
Seeing he had caught up with his pursuer, Charles decided to level the odds. He pulled on the trigger once more.
Odalo had been thinking of how to jump the weak agent. He didn’t expect the agent to shoot him. He clutched his left leg as the gun spat. The agent had blown off his knee-cap; he let out a loud wail.
Charles turned the rifle around, hit the sniper on the head and watched as he slumped. For the first time that night, he felt peace. He had a valuable asset, he needed to recuperate, and he would have to go dark for a long time. He slung the gun over his head placing it on his shoulders. He grabbed the sniper by hand and dragged him away. Relief washed over him. It was over, at least for a while.