They got to the entrance of the rock in time. Tunde crouched whilst Charles and Jide lay prone; they had rifles sighted at the entrance. They waited. Their wait wasn’t for long as soon a rush was heard. Six men were transporting a bespectacled greying man in a rush.
Tunde lifted his right hand pointing his index finger skywards. His colleagues did not move, they waited for his command. When he was satisfied that there were no more men coming out of the enclave, he made his hand into a fist and drew it to himself.
It was all they needed to see. Charles and Jide fired quick bursts into the escaping men, cutting them down in their flight. Tunde rose and walked over to the bespectacled man who was cowering now, his gun trained.
‘Please don’t kill me.’ The man begged.
‘Depends.’ Tunde quipped. ‘Who are you? And what do you know? Spill, you just might earn your life.’
‘My name is Dr Ojediran Anthony. I’m a marine biologist currently researching on protozoan and I was approached by these men who told me they have colonies that if I researched and published, I would receive international acclaim and awards.’
Tunde paused, lowered his gun. ‘They didn’t lie. What they didn’t tell you is that you would have to adapt the colonies into warfare mode. Here’s a sound advice, get your contacts to send you their materials. That way you won’t be cut down prematurely in crossfire you know nothing of.’
The doctor was apologetic. He seemed genuinely rattled. Tunde had pity on him and shook his head. He had walked to the man to execute him up close, but now…
‘Go. Get out of here.’ Tunde commanded.
The man scampered away, running as fast as his legs could carry him. Charles came beside Tunde, his rifle trained on the escaping man. Tunde placed his hand on the rifle and brought it down gently to Charles’ chagrin.
‘I reckon he won’t make it out of this forest alive, if his story’s true. Otherwise, he’ll have a few questions to answer. Let’s go.’ He turned around and headed for the opening in the rock.
They went the way Ibrahim had taken him when he was showing the place to Tunde. The place was deserted. Not that it had too many men earlier; a creepy eeriness had descended into the hallways. The trio walked stealthily.
They checked two levels inside the rock without any luck. It was on the landing that they saw the communications room. There was a man making a call. He didn’t notice the trio creeping up on him.
Tunde clicked his gun and said calmly, ‘pass over the phone easily.’
The man turned and Tunde was surprised to see Ismaila. The kingpin handed over the phone to Tunde, a smile on his face. ‘You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into.’
‘Hello, what’s happening?’ A voice spoke from the handset in Tunde’s hand. He was about clicking it off and replacing it on its cradle when the voice spoke again. ‘What the hell is going on over there?’
Tunde answered the phone then, ‘we’ve just captured your boss, you would do well to fine a new career path, ’cause we coming after all his men.’
‘Boss?’ The voice sneered. The man you have there is my double. I can’t be everywhere so I have men who do in my name and face. I’m sure you heard of plastic surgeries. Anyway, enjoy your pyrrhic triumph, you’re a dead man.’ The line went off.
Tunde looked at the handset expressionless. ‘Well then,’ he raised his head, ‘you’ll just have to provide answers.’
The impersonator cowered, walking back. His jaws moved and his lips were shut, Tunde made the connection too late. He jumped at the man, held his throat and forcefully opened his mouth. The drug had dissolved and the criminal looked into Tunde’s eyes, like he could see into his soul.
Tunde left the lifeless body and it crashed into the accoutrements in the room. ‘Let’s go,’ he barked, clearly not himself. He wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
‘Nobody move.’ Lieutenant Aloba said. His gun trained on Tunde. Charles and Jide hadn’t heard the soldiers coming and were also caught napping.
Tunde looked at his colleagues. ‘Remind me to write a report recommending you both for desk jobs.’ His anger was seething. ‘Why don’t you lower your gun, you’ve already won and I don’t think you came here to kill us.’
Captain O’Brien spoke. ‘I want that man. My commander would like him in prison.’
‘Not gonna happen.’ Tunde shook his head. He was studying the men, and the fact that they wore army fatigues royally irked him. He always told his friends he would personally take out a troop of soldiers, now three men had him cornered.
‘You’re in no position to negotiate, I’m bringing you all in.’ Lieutenant Aloba said.
‘Good luck with that.’ Tunde sat on a table beside him, ‘just tell me this, is the place crawling with soldiers now? That’s the only way my men and I would surrender.’
The Lieutenant looked from Tunde to Charles to Jide. All three men were calm, they had been in this position too many times to count and they survived. He lowered his gun walked up to Tunde and offered his hand. ‘Lieutenant Akin Aloba, Nigerian Army.’
‘Tunde Smart, Nigerian Intelligence Agency.’ They shook hands.
The tension in the room dissipated immediately, ‘come, let’s share intel. I just lost a good soldier back in the hallways. Point me in their direction of who has to die.’
Tunde shook his head and pointed at the dead man on the floor, ‘unfortunately, he took that answer with him.’
‘Fortunately, I’m a comm’s expert.’ Captain O’Brien limped towards the main computer. ‘This should be a child’s play. You all should search out this place, see what we missed earlier, this might take a while.’ He started punching the keyboard.
The men got to the forest late. As they made their way towards the place, they heard the eerie quietness of the forest. They saw smoke rising from a portion of the forest and moved towards it.
They saw the dead bodies, went past them and continued till they got to the burning lab. The building was a shadow of its original self, having been blown to bits by Jide’s incendiary. The men moved on.
They got to the rocky enclave and met it all in ruins. Not a single soul was alive; they went through all the corpses to see if they could recognise anyone. It was an arduous task, and after one hour of searching, they came to the conclusion, Tunde had long vacated the forest.
The leader placed a call to the Director General. He was ambivalent about his report, he had hoped to report good news, or better still, that the agent had been killed. His present report, wasn’t comforting. The phone rang.
Colonel Bala answered the call on the second ring. ‘Yes, did you find him?’ He was eager for good news.
‘I’m afraid not, there’s no living soul here. The place is in ruin, we got here too late.’
Colonel Bala was silent for a while. ‘Wrap it up then, get back here first thing tomorrow morning. I’ll personally debrief you.’
‘Yes sir.’ The agent clicked off the phone and turned to his subordinate. ‘Time to go guys. We missed the action.’
General Musa walked briskly to his car. Things were happening, things he wasn’t privy to, things no one could account for. He had been briefed of the smoke emanating from the forest. He went down to the computer section and saw the images.
He was on the phone immediately to the garrison in Calabar. The commandant answered his call and the General did not mince words.
‘Did you sanction any hit today?’ He didn’t bother with small talk.
‘No sir.’ The commandant quipped. ‘I don’t know that we’re in a war with anyone.’
‘We’re not. I need you to deploy men to that location and see if we can salvage anything.’
The conversation ended; still the general knew he needed very strong alibis and evidence if he was to survive the brewing storm. Ergo, his brisk footsteps. He was on a mission to make sure his head would be remaining attached to his neck.
Colonel Bala sat in his office all evening spying his phone as he work. He half expected the phone to ring any second. He continued working in order to distract himself from the worrying and expectation.
It didn’t help initially, the phone kept ringing and he kept answering, only for other agents or ministers to be at the other end. He courteously told them off and replaced the phone. Only to repeat the exercise the next time the phone rang.
Then it stopped ringing and he continued working oblivious of the time. It was when his calendar scheduler popped up a reminder window on his computer screen that he realised he had been sitting there for almost three hours reading reports.
He stood up, stretched and yawned. It was time to head home. He shot down his computer, packed his briefcase and started walking towards the door. Then it rang. The spy chief dropped his briefcase gently on the floor and walked to the phone.
‘Hello,’ he answered it.
‘This is Efe Charles checking in sir. I just wanted to notify you that I’m alive and well and that I’m on the brink of something gargantuan. Please don’t pull me back in.’
Colonel Bala closed his eyes and thought. Charles had been involved with that Jos fiasco. He wasn’t calling to notify his boss that he was alive. He was calling instead of Tunde. How the two met out on the field, he couldn’t divine. ‘So you have a package for me? Any news?’
‘None for now sir. Will do however before the weekends. It’ll be my throw-in.’
The colonel almost leapt. Tunde was the one who had originated the throw-in culture at the office. He called the field agents reports throw-ins much to the DG’s chagrin. ‘Tread cautiously, and do not hesitate to contact me for anything you need.
‘Yes sir.’ The line went dead.
Colonel Bala dropped the phone and started out the door. He carried his briefcase from the floor and started whistling as he walked further from his office. Things were falling into shape, soon, soon they would have the culprits.