Dare was distraught. ‘Again,’ he asked. ‘Again?’
‘You have to understand Dare, I have to go. The story I’m supposed to cover is one of national importance. Every journalist in Nigeria would kill for the chance to get my tip right now.’ Damilola explained again, she had decided to pay him a courtesy visit the previous evening when a pang of guilt hit her.
She had gone over to explain that she would be travelling the next afternoon. Unfortunately, Dare was busy, furiously punching codes onto his computer screen, she knew it wouldn’t be easy telling him. So she called her mother and gave an excuse about not coming home. Not that it mattered; her father wanted her out of his house already. He was no longer being coy about it.
‘So where will you sleep?’ Her mother had inquired.
‘Mom, I’ll be home tomorrow morning, I’m working.’ She was tired of her mother’s curiosity, she wanted to know everything, be a part of every aspect of her children’s lives. She guessed that was what mothers did anyway. Understand their kids so well, they literally became soul mates.
She had terminated the call, her mother would not fret. She went into Dare’s room, changed into his slacks which always made her feel small, and then she went into his kitchen. Dare was neat, she knew, his kitchen was always tidy, his utensils shiny. She wondered sometimes if he wouldn’t be disappointed when the pots started getting soiled after their marriage.
She made dinner. He always had foodstuff in the house. For a guy who detested cooking with a passion; hated entering the kitchen except someone was preparing his meal, Dare had a very tidy mind. He was ordered and the exact location of everything in the flat. She was the one who always disrupted his order, and she was back in his kitchen, to move things around again.
He rose from his computer way late into the night. It was past eleven p.m. by the time he was done. He stretched lazily, staggered backwards and found his footing. She stifled a laugh, he was the trendy geek and watching him work sometimes was divine. There was a certain sexiness she felt; she couldn’t quite articulate or rather comprehend it.
He turned, saw her and yawned. ‘Hey sweetie, I thought you’d left.’
‘She checked wall clock: ‘seen the time?’ Her eyebrow was arched. ‘Besides, I had to make sure you eat the burnt offering I prepared.’ She grinned.
He sighed. Walked over to her and bundled her in his hands. He planted a kiss on her forehead, ‘now, about food…’ he started, setting her gently on the couch. ‘…I’ll eat anything you put in front of me. Feels like I’ll faint.’
‘What if I didn’t come here?’ She hissed and spread across the couch.
‘Come on, be a sport, you’re here, that’s what matters.’ He swung her legs off the couch and sat, gently pushing her off.
She grudgingly went to get his food. He attacked it with gusto and the plate was empty in no time. She had made rice and plantain with sauce, since there was no stew in his apartment. She cleared the table; he stayed back, watching the news. He was a CNN nutcase. When she was done, she came back to the room and sat beside him.
Maybe it was the news, maybe it was the time, or perhaps, their longing and individual loneliness, she couldn’t really say. All she remembered was that his clothes were off her body, and they were locked together in a warm embrace. They didn’t sleep much through the night. And in the morning, when she was about leaving, she had broken the news.
‘Dare love, I’m going back to Abuja this afternoon.’ And then, the argument had started, which was why she was explaining for the umpteenth time.
He finally shrugged, shook his head and walked away from her. ‘Eventually, you will have to prioritize. I hope you can place me above the damned reporting.’ He turned round and faced her; his face was hard, betraying no emotion.
She rose slowly. ‘I promise this will be the last time. Once I cover this story and leave Abuja, I’ll take a desk job, write features and my travelling and running around would have been cut by almost seventy five percent.’ She hugged him but he did not hug back, he was too angry to savour her embrace.
He watched her leave, without moving from where he stood. It was when he heard the ignition of her car that he moved away from where he was to observe her leave through the window. He was sad to see her go, his anger raged that she couldn’t really understand his love. He did not think that that would be the last time he saw her.
She got home, packed her weekend bag and started out. She left a note for her mother on the refrigerator door. ‘Gone to Abuja to cover a story with a hot lead. I’ll tell you about it on Sunday.’ She left the house having called a cab man to drive her to the airport. She got there on time, as she was boarding the plane, she remembered him. Maybe she had been hasty in her response she thought, maybe: Time would tell. She boarded and soon, the plane was in the air, she was on her way to Abuja.
The Leader received the information about the destruction of Ismaila’s lair with an ambivalent disposition. He sat at the head of the table with two men sitting with him.
General Musa spoke first. ‘It’s safe to assume that those agents are onto us. We would do well to skip town for a bit.’
The leader hissed. He couldn’t understand how such a fearful man had gotten a job that required steeliness. He turned to the other man. ‘Emeka, how are things now? Are we good to go?’
‘The destruction of the lair set us back considerably. Now we have to rely on extraneous factors that are not under our control. The war is all but lost.’ Emeka reported, his face bereft of emotion.
The Leader nodded. ‘So now what I’m supposed to believe is that we do not have any moves left in this chess game. I find that largely unacceptable.’ He rose, ‘tomorrow morning, I will be standing with the president. Tomorrow evening, I want to hear the moves you have devised for us. And your strategies better be good. Good day.’ He stalked off from the men leaving both of them to wonder in amazement.
Evan McGregor was tired when he got home, exhausted after sitting through five hours of debriefing. His superior was angry about the way he had handled the entire operation. Femi’s body had been identified and all through the meeting, not one agent could give a complete report on how Ismaila’s lair got blown to bits. There were too many gaps.
Eventually, the man had let them go, claiming that they would continue the sitting the next day. Evan wasn’t looking forward to it. The man had the talent to rant. He opened his door and went into his apartment. As he entered into his living room and flicked on his light switch which did not produce the desired effect of illuminating the room, he knew something was wrong. He was about to remove his gun underneath his jacket when he heard it.
‘Don’t even bother. Take your hand slowly away from your jacket. Any fast movements and you lose an arm.’ A voice called out of the shadows.
Evan did as he was commanded. He waited until his eyes were accustomed to the darkness. Then he saw Tunde Smart siting at the end of the room, his hands on his thighs, probably concealing his gun. Evan knew he could not underrate the Nigerian.
‘What I want to know is why? Why do it?’
‘I’m sorry?’ Evan was genuinely confused.
‘I want to know why you sold your conscience and decided that my country also could be part of the deal.’
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ Evan threw his hands up in surrender.
‘I won’t say it again; throw your hands like you just did, and you won’t be needing their services ever again.’ Tunde remained calm.
Evan stood still. He knew of the agent only by reputation, and what he had heard didn’t allow him mess with the other agent. He also stayed calm. His long day had translated into a long night he reckoned. He would have to wait the agent out.
‘Sergeant Musa, the Leader, the arms deal you’re brokering, everything you did to start a war in this country. You even sent a killer after me. How do you plead?’ Tunde asked in mock trial fashion.
Evan wanted to move his hand, instead, they stayed beside him. ‘Those allegations can’t be substantiated. It’s your word against mine.’ He was gritting his teeth now, ready to pounce.
‘Ah, but I have proof.’ Tunde rose from the chair and revealed that he wasn’t carrying any weapon. ‘You see…’ he spread out his hands.
Evan saw his chance and took it. His right hand went up under his jacket. He was groping for his gun when Tunde pointed at his feet. A bullet ricocheted. His fabulous rug had a hole in it. He paused, gritted his teeth and Tunde pointed at him. He saw it then.
A red dot was nestling on his jacket, confused, he looked at Tunde and saw the gun in his hands.
‘I do not have any quarrel with you. For the love of country and humanity, I would end you here, and now. But I have been asked by the brass to leave u breathing, so do not tempt me.’ He brought out an envelope from his waist and tossed it on the table.
Evan eyed him suspiciously, Tunde’s face was expressionless. ‘Go on, it’s for your viewing pleasure.’
As Evan approached the table to view the envelope and its contents, the light in the apartment came on. He froze.
The room was suddenly filled with tough looking men. Evan realised he had walked into a set up. ‘Evan McGregor, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say or do can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford one, the united states government will assign one to you.’ The leading man read him his Miranda rights and produced a cuff.
He spied the photos as his hands were being cuffed behind him. ‘These won’t hold up in court,’ he sneered.
‘But this will.’ Tunde played a clip of an audio file where he was brokering an arms deal with Emeka. ‘I realise that Nigeria is not as technologically advanced as the United States, still we have men who have the very best of technologies. One of them is your ally, Ismaila. Did you know he had you followed?
Surprise registered on Evan McGregor’s face. He had brokered the arms deal to cause chaos in the country and force the president’s hand in allocating more resources to the security sector. That was the reason he teamed up with General Musa, and he was bored, sitting down peacefully at his desk, he wanted adventure.
The man walked slowly towards the fleet of cars. His colleagues had just left for their quarters. He had a simple assignment, check that there was nothing wrong or amiss. The cars had just gone to a battery of tests. Intense scrutiny to ensure that the big man could ride without fear.
That was why he had stayed back. He waited till all the tests and checks had been conducted. Then he went to the car, looked at it sadly and shook his head. He crouched, produced a magnetic chip and affixed it under the car. A red light beeped on and then the device died.
He smiled as he rose. He had been told that would happen, he had been well briefed. His job was done; the man would not be keeping his appointment the next day. He walked away calm. The red light beeped faintly and died.