Commissioner Uzoma Anthony knew he was living on borrowed time. He understood that he had agreed to live precariously when he signed up with the group. Still, the rush of power had gotten to him: the promise of accelerated promotions and the lure of a mouth watering position in the new administration were too powerful to ignore.
Yet he had failed. He failed to control the situation in his town. He had hoped to press his advantage with the group, but that damned agent wouldn’t die. Now he knew he would have to go in the man’s stead.
He remembered the look on the Leader’s face as he left the gathering. Grim; ashen. He knew immediately they would kill him. He had expected he would not leave the estate alive, he was surprised that two days later, he was still breathing. Maybe they were forgiving and just wanted him to stew a little. That would be alright.
He drove into the cathedral and parked his car. He was scheduled for a confession that evening with his priest. A new beginning; a fresh start. He would not care what happens after he was done confessing his sins. He started towards the entrance, evening mass had just ended.
He moved against the mill of people and pushed his way through the crowd. He felt something sting him briefly and he slapped the place. He checked his palm, nothing. He entered the cathedral, saw the priest talking to a couple and waved. The man waved back and he smiled. He headed for the cubicle. He entered, crossed himself as he sat, and then it started.
He started feeling funny all of a sudden; it was as though he could hear a symphony playing. He was sure there was no music playing when he entered earlier. He smiled as he slowly realised, the silent whispers of biological warfare, that sting on the steps of the cathedral. He would die in the church he thought.
A sad smile spread across his face; at least he would die in the house of the Lord he thought. He confessed his sins, and made peace with his creator. When he was done he sat upright and looked on the crucifix. I’m coming home he thought, then his head shifted to the right, he was dead.
The bespectacled man stared at his watch then at the cubicle. The commissioner had been in there for over seven minutes, and hadn’t emerged. He knew his work was done. He brought out his phone from his pocket and typed, drug administered, patient cured. He hit the sent button and dropped the phone in his pocket again. His job was done, other assignments would soon come in.
He exited the cathedral before anyone noticed the dead commissioner in the confession cubicle. He crossed the street and disappeared into the evening.
Odalo knew he was in hell. There was no other description more fitting or that even came close. Hell. That was it. He was tied to a chair in the middle of a sparse room. That had been his position for the last two days. The agent had left him there the first night, allowing him sleep and for his wound to fester.
He had been delirious the following morning and the agent treated his wound. He felt better, felt that maybe he could survive the ordeal, but one look at the agent, he realised he was looking at a certain death. He couldn’t understand the agent’s kindness. He had fed Odalo well the previous day, leaving him in the room for long spells of time. Odalo felt hope as his body received nourishment via the food the agent had given him. They had both rested on that day.
That morning, it had all started. The agent approached him exercising both hands. He could see a rough stitching on the agent’s right arm. The agent spoke to him for the first time in two days.
‘My name is Efe Charles; I hope they told you that. I work for the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, but that you also know. I’ll bet you know everything that the agency has on me; I can’t claim the same knowledge with you. So we’ll have a Q and A session. I ask the Q’s, you supply the A’s. Do well, and our relationship will progress quickly. Stall me…’ He smiled and shook his head, ‘…let’s just say you won’t like me very much.
‘First question, what is your name?’
‘Odalo Lawrence,’ no point aggravating him, the hitman thought.
‘Good, that was easy.’ Charles smiled. ‘Moving along. What do you do for a living?’
‘I kill people.’ Odalo’s face was hard.
Charles nodded. ‘Now the tricky bit. Why are you killing federal agents?’
Odalo was silent for a while, his head bowed. He raised it and looked Charles in the eyes. ‘That is privileged information; all you need know is that it’s not personal. Some of the men I’ve killed were warriors. Such a shame.’
Charles shook his head. ‘I thought I warned you that you need to be on your best behaviour?’ He exhaled deeply. ‘I’ll ask again, why are you killing federal agents?’
Odalo didn’t respond on time he looked away and was jarred back to the reality and gravity of the situation. Charles shot off the big toe of his left leg. He screamed and shook the chair vigorously. It was all in vain. He was held in place by the ropes.
The smile was still on Charles’ face. He stood up, moved a bench close and revealed crude weapons as well as his gun that he placed on it. ‘Now that I have your attention, can you please answer the question?’ There was no malice in his eyes.
Odalo knew then for sure. There was no surviving the ordeal; worse, the agent would make him suffer slowly. He saw it in Charles’ eyes. He was dead for sure.
Charles observed the killer. He could understand the kind of thoughts that was going through his head, yet he knew, he did not have time to waste. It had been two days and he knew that the hounds would be close, or closing in. He had to get information from Odalo, and quickly too. He picked the gun and shot of two more toes.
Odalo watched in horror as the agent took the gun and fired. It was as though he was seeing the slow motion of a badly made movie. It was when his screams pierced through his numbness that he understood. The agent wasn’t joking around with him. He opened his mouth to talk; unfortunately, the agent had risen from his chair. He dropped the gun and picked up a plier instead. Odalo started fighting to loosen himself from his bond.
Charles observed Odalo, an amused look on his face, ‘believe me, I could leave you here all week to try and break free. The problem is I can’t, and with every passing second, I know I have to get out of here. So, I do not have time for your grandstanding. He raised the small finger of Odalo’s left hand and placed it between the teeth of the plier. He applied pressure and broke off the finger. Odalo cried, but he couldn’t be worried. He broke all four remaining fingers, rendering the left hand useless. Then he took the small finger of the right hand and placed it between the plier.
‘Stop!’ Odalo was writhing in pain. His body jerked violently as he struggled to be free. The ropes held, the chair stayed glued to the ground that was when Odalo realised he was in hell. ‘What was the question again, please?’ He was crying.
Charles gazed at him for a fraction of a second, disbelief registered in his eyes. He proceeded to apply pressure on the plier.
‘There’s a conspiracy. A move to oust the president and install a dummy in the Aso Villa. Your boys are too curious, so I was contracted to end them.’ He was shouting as he explained.
Charles paused a second then applied his full weight on the plier crushing the finger. The look on his face was stern now. ‘I do not have time to waste with you. And believe me, you will talk, one way or another. So do it my way and get this over with soon. Do it your way…’ He shook his head, a dark grin appeared on his face and he stood, tossed the plier onto the table and leaned on it. ‘Continue,’ he invited.
‘There’s a plan to develop biological weapons. The president caught whiff of it, put a stop to it, but my employers do not share his ideals. Nations are developing nuclear weapons; we have an abundance of biologically unfriendly elements waiting to be tapped for use. But the president would have none of it. It’s why they decided he had to go, why there’s an all out war against your agency.’
Charles was unfazed. It was as though he had heard that news before and was just confirming from Odalo. ‘So Bio-weapons, cool. And because the president said no, my life had to be endangered?’
Odalo laughed besides himself. ‘You really are ignorant aren’t you? Your agency is one no Nigerian would believe exists.’ He spat. ‘Nigerian spooks, unbelievable! Yet, when the president detected something was amiss, it was your DG that he summoned and confided in. That was when your life was endangered.
‘It’s been several months and all our plans to kill the president have always been thwarted. Then my employers did a search, and your outfit held the short end of the straw. Your colleagues’ efficiency cost those men their lives.’ He spat out blood again. He was losing blood like faucet releases water.
Charles contemplated a bit. ‘Okay, say I bite, why did you steal the chip? And where’s your headquarters?’
Odalo scoffed. ‘If I knew the answer to both questions, I wouldn’t be out pulling triggers to end lives. I’ll be hidden somewhere safe, giving orders to achieve the same purpose.’
Charles knew he was speaking the truth. ‘One more question, how do you contact your employers?’
Odalo shook his head. ‘I don’t, they contact me…’
Charles brought out a small device from his pocket. He held it up and smiled. I found this in your shoe when I was changing cars two days ago. Apparently, it’s a transponder to transmit your location. I switched it off. You were unconscious then. I took off your shoes, so you wouldn’t wonder why your comrades haven’t yet charged into this place.’
He slowly picked the gun, corked it, and shot again. This time, he didn’t shoot off Odalo’s toes or fingers. He shot Odalo in the rib.
The hitman’s wail filled the whole room and Charles knew that his saving grace was that they were several miles away from the closest person. He emptied the bullets in the gun shooting at the walls till the gun clicked empty. He produced another magazine clip, loaded the gun and corked it. Then he unclipped the magazine and dropped the gun on the table.
‘I wish I could pull the trigger and end your miserable life now. I can’t, you need to understand the gravity of your sins. Take your dying moments to think about what you did with your life. Maybe, make peace with your creator; you’ll be seeing him soon.’
Charles held up the device again, depressed it and the light blinked. ‘Now they know where you are. So it’s a three way race. You can either bleed to death, or miraculously escape those ropes and borrow this gun.’ He patted the gun, ‘I’ve magnanimously left you a bullet. The third option is whoever comes in through those doors, revives you, and then drills you for information before terminating you. Your choice.’ He turned he had to be away from there by the time whoever was coming came.
Odalo watched him go. He shook his head in sadness. There was no way he would reach the gun. No way. The shot to his rib was slowly releasing acids into his blood. He would die soon. There was his bleeding too. There was no way his colleagues would meet him alive. The agent meant for him to die a slow and painful death. And there was nothing he could do about it. He shifted on the chair and did the only thing he could do. Relax. He would welcome the angel of death with a smile; ironically, he had always sent it out that way to other people. With a smile.