CHAPTER 20

Charles woke up in a strange bed sore all over. He experienced sharp pains all over his body; it was as though someone had placed needles into every pore of his body. He blinked as the pain signal was transmitted from his body to his brain. He thought he would pass out.

The bout passed, he reopened his eyes slowly afraid he might actually trigger the pain again. He moved his fingers, they moved, he wriggled his toes, they responded. At least he wasn’t dead yet he thought. He tried to rise sure there was a rope holding him down that he couldn’t see.

Surprise registered on his face as he found he was a free man. He looked around the room. It didn’t look like he was in an hospital, it wasn’t a dinghy room either, he relaxed a bit. No one would be torturing him anytime soon. He sat up, afraid to put his legs on the floor. A pain trigger had been sent to his brain that restricted him from putting his feet on the ground. He studied the room in detail.

It was a well kept room. The furnishing was sparse giving off the idea that it was a guest room, there were no pictures on the wall he could see, and the room had brown carpeting. He finally developed the courage to step off the bed. Nothing happened as he stepped on his right leg, expecting the pain to shoot up. He tested his weight well before putting his left leg on the floor. He stood.

The door as he ventured to step away from the bed. Standing in the doorway, was a white man, he had a smile on his face. ‘Thank God you’re alive; I was scared for a moment there.’ The man explained, Charles looked at the man confused, and then slowly he recollected the events of the previous evening.

‘You!’ He was ready to leap at the man.

‘Evan McGregor, FBI.’ The man produced an Identity card.

Charles snorted. ‘Damned American spook.’ He cursed. ‘You think I’m foolish enough to think you’re not CIA?’

Evan shrugged. There was no point in arguing with the agent. ‘Come, we have work to do.’

Charles observed him briefly and followed him into the living room. Obviously, Evan had taken him home.

‘Please sit…’ Evan pointed at a chair, offering it to his guest. He didn’t anticipate what happened next.

Charles had followed silently, waiting for an opening. He bid his time and kept his cool. Then the CIA agent made the mistake of stopping, he was offering him a seat when Charles landed a perfect punch on his jaw. Evan’s knees buckled and he fell, crashing into the centre table in the room.

Charles sat down and smiled. ‘That’s for shooting me.’ There was no malice in his eyes.

Evan got up, rubbed his jaw and smiled. ‘Fair enough, I deserved that. Next time though, you’d be a dead man.’

‘If there’s a next time, you won’t stand. You’d fall to your death.’ It was a promise.

Evan knew the man wasn’t joking. He knew he needed Charles’ intel, so he held his tongue and sat across the Nigerian agent. ‘I’m one of the good guys, you can trust me.’

‘It’s why you’re not dead yet. I’m extending the benefit of doubt to you.’ Charles quipped.

‘I saved you didn’t I?’ Evan tried to play a fast one.

‘If I recollect correctly, I was out of the woods and on my way when you appeared out of nowhere and shot me.’ Charles’ eyes glowed.

‘You needed help, I just offered…’

Charles’ eyebrow arched. ‘I was fine. You intruded my plans and set me back by hours.’ He had spied the big wall clock as he entered into the sitting room. ‘I’m curious though, what do you want? I know it’s the only reason why you kidnapped me.’

Evan did not fall for Charles’ goading. ‘We’re the good guys, we should work together. Besides, you and I know that you were in bad shape yesterday. I did you a favour.’

‘That you expect me to repay with intel no?’ Charles shook his head. ‘To start with, what is your real name and who is your employer. Let’s see if you can be honest.’

‘Evan McGregor, CIA.’ He didn’t blink.

Charles face was expressionless. ‘What are you doing in Nigeria, let me rephrase: you’re serving the agency in what capacity?’

The meeting wasn’t going according to how Evan had planned; still he humoured Charles and answered his question. ‘I’m an intelligence liaison for the American ambassador.’

‘Meaning you spy on Nigeria and send reports back to your country.’ Charles shifted in his seat. ‘Tell me what you know, I’ll determine whether or not you’re worth sharing my intel with.’

Evan launched into a tirade. He spoke for almost ten minutes trying to convince Charles he could be trusted. He explained how he had noticed the drop in intelligence chatter and how he had accessed satellite images to find Charles.

Charles listened attentively. When Evan was done, he rose, ‘do you have a computer handy?’

Evan produced papers. ‘I’ll do you one better.’ He smiled, ‘a short profile on the military men who came to the hide-out yesterday evening.’ He tossed a copy on the seat Charles had vacated.

Charles picked up the document, sat down and perused. It took him five full minutes to read the profiles of the men. ‘It appears you really want to work together.’ He held the document aloft.

The smile was etched on Evan’s face. Better to make the agent think he would be in on the action, the CIA man thought. ‘I told you, we’re the good guys.’

Charles eyed him suspiciously. If he had doubts before, Evan had just confirmed to him. ‘What do you want to know?’

‘Make a duplicate; tell me all that you know.’ Evan made it sound uncomplicated.

Charles shook his head, ‘my country, my headache. I’ll deal with it. You don’t have to worry.’

‘What if I can offer you Cross River?’

‘What’s at Cross River?’

‘That is where you need to be. That is where it is all going down.’

‘If that’s true, why are you here with me playing shrink? Shouldn’t you be out apprehending goons and stopping a slaughter?’ Charles was suddenly angry.

‘That is not the modus operandi of the agency. For all we know, the man is a law abiding citizen exercising his right to live anywhere in the country. He has to make a move or mistake. He hasn’t, so we’re waiting, and watching.’

‘Where are we?’ Charles asked.

‘We’re in Abuja.’

‘Get me a plane, point me in the right direction and stay out of my way. This is my country’s concern.’ Charles started rising.

‘Before you go, let me warn you, there’s a fellow agent in there. He’s one of yours. I caught his distress signal because I’ve been scanning for it, for days. I reckon he can start a war in there and destroy the place. I don’t think he’ll make it out alive though, that is where you come in. Be his cavalry and bring him out.’

Charles didn’t know when he nodded. It was more a reflex than intentional. He was glad to know the CIA operative would get him to the hide-out of the people who had sanctioned his death. He didn’t mind dying on the mission; he just wanted to be able to pull down the organisation with him.

Both men regarded themselves for a while. Evan McGregor knew then, he would not be able to turn the agent, still he was glad he could command his services. He watched as the agent walked out the door. He picked up his intercom, ‘take him there.’ That was all he needed to say.

****************************************

Captain John O’Brien was back in Abuja. After the unsuccessful attempt to bring in the elusive secret agent, he had stayed a couple of hours in the Jos barracks overseeing the autopsy of the dead man. He dreaded the call he knew he had to make; yet, he finally found the courage to dial the number.

‘What?’ The general asked gruffly when he answered his phone.

‘We found the other man sir; the agent was no longer there. He was gone by the time we got there. The man had also given up the ghost. The agent saw to it that he died a slow and painful death.’

There was silence at the other end of the line.

‘Sir, are you there?’ Captain O’Brien asked.

‘Come back here. There’s nothing for you to do there.’ The line clicked off.

And so, Captain John O’Brien had slept through the journey back to Abuja from Jos. The driver of the humvee that drove him drove like a maniac and they got to his house in Abuja in the early hours. He entered his apartment in the officers’ quarters, took off his clothes and fell into his bed. He was snoring as soon as his head found his pillow.

He slept till late in the morning. When he finally arose, he went into the kitchen to make coffee. He dreaded going to the office, the general did not like failure. His. Phone was ringing as he took entered the room. He answered curious as to the identity of the number. ‘Yes?’

‘I can make your career. I have information about the agent you need to find, and even better knew, the people the agent is after. I just need you to make me a solemn promise.’

Captain O’Brien checked his phone again, ‘I’m sorry who is this?’

‘What I have to tell you, you do not tell anyone. You have clout, you’ll find a way to make my proposition work. Are we agreed?’

Captain O’Brien fell silent for a while. The caller apparently knew about his assignment of the previous day, what was more; he was calling the official line that very few people knew. ‘I’m listening.’

‘Good. Pack your gun, and head for Cross Rivers state. Borrow a few men from the garrison command and we’ll talk again. Remember not a word to anyone about this.’ The line clicked off.

Captain O’Brien didn’t know how to react. For one, he knew the call wasn’t a prank. Get to Cross River, borrow a few men, and we’ll talk. Those words held better promise than him going to the office to face the general. What was more, the caller had promised the agent. He drained his coffee in one gulp, and headed towards the shower. He suddenly had a purpose for the day.

When Evan terminated the call, he stared at his ceiling. He had been lucky to stumble upon the agent’s distress signal, yet he wasn’t sure he had done enough by sending the other agent after him. So, he took a gamble with the military captain. The man’s record was impeccable. He would find out if the captain could be trusted soon. He dropped the phone and started going into the house. It was time to do his job; play umpire.

******************************************

Agent Adigun Bakare got to Abuja without incident. He slept well and woke up early. It was his final day and he hoped to make the best of it. He drove to the office complex ahead of most people, he thought of carrying a gun to the office, but decided against it.

At about nine a.m. he started having abdominal discomfort. A sad smile registered on his face. He had waited in vain for the head of his organization to walk in, the man was uncharacteristically late. He tried to stand.

It was a mistake on his part. His stomach rumbled, there was a loud explosion. Agent Bakare looked round to see, nothing had exploded around him. He looked down and horror registered on his face.

His abdomen and intestines were struggling to touch the ground. He packed them in his hands, sat down and pushed them back into his stomach. He felt weak, growing weaker by the second. He blinked once, and struggled to pack his intestines back in. His eyes shut, his hands fell away, he was dead.

His colleagues who had heard and seen the event did not know what to think. Most shook their heads in sadness, some clapped. The office assistant who had brought coffee into the office spilled his ware. ‘Ise aiye re o’ he thought as he knelt to gather the broken pieces of china. Nobody in the office could work.

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