Captain O’brien was briefing his hand chosen men in the barracks. He had flown from Abuja to Jos that afternoon and had gotten right to work. He selected six men he had worked with several times. An advanced tactical unit, each soldier he chose was a virtuoso killing machine. Their targets wouldn’t stand a chance against them, the captain was pleased.
He was wearing his combat fatigues as he pored over the map with his men, ‘they were last seen here, since then, both men have disappeared from the face of the earth. We all know disappearing is easy in Nigeria, our task is easy; find them, capture them, get them before a judge. These men have done us a huge disservice.
‘Oh brother,’ Sergeant Zach thought. It was either the colonel didn’t fully confide in him or the captain was being coy and playing them. He would find out soon he determined.
Captain O’Brien was speaking. ‘I have spoken to the computer department and they have promised to alert me should anything develop. We’re monitoring all radio frequencies in the state, they should turn up soon.
He realised that he hadn’t developed an exit strategy and he started thinking. The captain was lost in his own world when the radio cackled.
‘We have an unidentified frequency beeping in that area sir!’ An excited voice spoke over the radio.
‘Good, send me the coordinates and get the car.’ He was already moving.
The soldiers had to keep up; he had a mission to complete and would rather sleep in Abuja than in the military barracks. They got out, collected the radio signals, monitors and coordinates from the technicians and jumped into the back of the lorry that was their transport.
‘Show me a map.’ Captain O’Brien demanded.
A large map was spread on the floor of the lorry and all seven men hooded close, tactics was about to be discussed. They studied the landmark for a bit then decided the only way to access was from the front. The area was a swamp.
‘Maybe there’s another way,’ sergeant Zach spoke up. ‘I could borrow the bike, come from behind and we’ll have them boxed in.’ He moved his hand over the map to show what he was describing.
Captain O’Brien couldn’t hide his repulsion. ‘Box in you say?’ His eyebrow arched. ‘There’s a federal agent in there, and from what I’ve been told, he has trust issues right now. That’s why he didn’t take his hostage in. Our job is to convince him to trust again. We are not going on any damned guerrilla recon, so keep your gun shouldered.’
Zach felt sufficiently rebuked. The agent would have to do something stupid like fire a round for him to be able to carry out the general’s command, otherwise, chain of command nonsense. He would have to do as the captain willed. They all sat back and enjoyed the ride.
Charles had made it out of the woods in one piece, no one jumped him neither did he encounter anyone. He was about moving away when it struck him that he was about to throw away a goldmine. He stopped, went back into the forest and against his better judgement, climbed a tall tree and waited on one of the branches. They would come soon, he wanted to know and identify them at least.
He waited ten minutes before he heard it. The rumbling of an automobile engine, the crackling twigs as tyres rolled over the logs on the ground. He held tightly on the branch and peered. The lorry passed by him. He waited for two minutes for the next car(s) to pass, nothing. He dropped off the tree and bounded back to the house. He had to know.
Odalo was drifting in and out of consciousness. It had been almost half an hour that the agent walked away, leaving him to die a slow and painful death. He knew his time was close, he had strugged at first; tried reaching the gun to no avail. His eyelids closed as he struggled to keep them open. His head lowered slowly.
Suddenly he heard it; a honk, then the rumbling of a lorry in the forest. He saw the bright light next. He smiled as he struggled to keep his eyes open. His mind was playing games. The proverbial white light, he laughed and coughed. Then he heard it.
‘This is the Nigerian Army, we mean you no harm. Come out with your hostage, we’re here to take you in.’ He shook his head too late he thought. Too late. His eyes closed slowly, his head jerked once more, he tried to stay awake, extend the inevitable. Slowly his head fell, he knew it was time, he felt the life leaving him, a soft smile appeared on his face. He his bowed, his body twitched, he died.
The lorry stopped in front of the abandoned house, Captain O’Brien jumped down, grabbed the megaphone in the back and went in front of the lorry. He switched it on and spoke.
‘This is the Nigerian Army, we mean you no harm. Come out with your hostage, we’re here to take you in.’ He waited for a full minute. ‘My men are coming in, please do not shoot. We just want to bring you back with us. Get you the medical help you require.’ He signalled to his men then.
The soldiers led by Sergeant Zach advanced towards the house. They did not move in any decipherable formation, Zach was the only one who walked towards the house like he had any real intent. He kicked open the door, rushed in and was shocked at what he saw.
A man was sitting on a chair; he was bound tightly so he couldn’t move. His head was bowed and he appeared lifeless. His blood had coagulated it had turned brown, Zach strolled into the room; his gun fell to his side. He saw the beeping device, saw the weapons on the table, he shook his head.
He felt the man’s body, still warm. He had died not too long ago, Zach observed. The others joined him, including Captain O’Brien, ‘he’s dead.’ It was all he had to say.
The captain stood transfixed. He also spied the table. He saw the wounds and looked around the room. He took the gun, pulled the lever and removed the chambered round. He shook his head in awe. The agent had class. Goading the killer to end his own life if he could reach the gun… A smile appeared on his face.
‘Okay boys, cut him loose. The agent’s long gone.’ He started out the building. The General would not be pleased, yet there was nothing he could do. They would have to hunt him down.
Charles got to the house as the soldier was speaking on the megaphone. He watched as his subordinates entered the house. He waited for five minutes after they had all gone in. An irrational thought passed through his head, he felt like stealing the lorry. He dismissed the thought as soon as it occurred to him.
He was about to leave when the soldier came out again. Charles got a good look at him and smiled. ‘We’ll know what you’re made of soon.’ He whispered under his breath as he crept away. It was time to pull out all the stops. There was plenty to do.