Justin stared at Jide mouth agape. ‘Eighty percent you say? He stole the money?’
Jide shook his head and smiled. ‘My dear man, Akeem is a facilitator. The best in these climes. If he touched the account, he didn’t take it ’cause he needed the money or had become greedy. He took it ’cause he was commissioned to.’
‘How do you know this?’
‘Simple, his IP signatures can’t be masked. He’s almost invisible. Plus, I just got a discreet mail to track him down sometime in the last hour. That was why in order to help you I had to separate you from your crew.’
‘Wait, wait, you don’t know for sure?’ Justin was livid.
‘Maybe not, but I do know this, you need his help, if you can locate him first. Like I said, the authorities are on to you, I’ll need you to beat them to him.’ The smile faded and Jide folded his hands across his chest.
‘You’ll get your life back. I promise. It’s Saturday night you’ll find him between Lekki and Ajah.’
‘I hope this is not a wild goose chase.’ Justin gave words to his fears.
‘Nope, find him. He’s the key.’ Jide placed a hand on Justin’s shoulder, then managed to smile.
‘How do I know where he is?’
‘We’ll keep in touch.’ Jide held up his mobile phone.
They exchanged numbers, then Justin left the house and discovered a minor setback. In the spirit of full disclosure, he share almost everything with Ugochi, she had a key to his car. When he went out the gate and found that the car was gone, he stomped his feet hard, cursing under his breathe. What am I supposed to do for a car now? He asked himself as he threw up his hands. Just then, help came.
His phone rang and he answered it, ‘hello?’ He didn’t bother to check the caller ID.
‘Dude, first things first, never answer your phone when you do not know the number. Maybe you have yet to appreciate the full extent of this enterprise, but I guarantee you, you will thank me later. That said, please come back in and take a car. I noticed your colleagues left with yours.’
Justin rolled his eyes, checked the phone and saved Jide’s other number. He would be avoiding Jide’s calls henceforth. He walked back into the house and Jide showed him a collection of cars. Justin was stupefied.
‘Take your pick son. And hurry.’
Justin chose the Mercedes Benz E-Class convertible. He was surprised to see that Jide didn’t argue, but just handed over the key.
‘Bring her back in one piece. I’m kinda attached.’
Justin nodded, got in the car and fired it up. Then he drove it out of Jide compound, on his way to locate the mysterious person.
The beach had become somewhat noisy for Akeem. He detested absolutely two things in his life: noise and poverty. Having come from a background of squalor, Akeem had vowed early in his teens to bid the terrible friend goodbye before his thirtieth birthday. He hit the jackpot way too early.
Few weeks before his twentieth, he escorted a friend to the bank to make a withdrawal. On their way home, a man was being chased by a mob. The man threw the bag he was carrying into a nearby bush and continued running. Akeem and his friend stepped away from the road to allow the man and his pursuers pass. After they had gone, Akeem went in search of the bag to the chagrin of his friend.
His friend left him in the bushes, and they had not seen each other since. Akeem found that the bag contained new fifty naira notes – the highest denomination at the time. He carried the bag and went deeper into the bush, opting to not pass through the streets as he was in no mood for queries. He successfully got the bag home and hid it.
The following day, he went to the bank to make a huge donation of a hundred thousand. The bank staff wondered where he got the money, but no questions were asked – just raised brows. He went home afterwards and researched. A month later, he was on his way to India to study the course that had fascinated him the most. Computers.
He majored in computer engineering, got certified in programming and networking, that was when the fun started. He had gone out with Anwhal his buddy to a geek meet. Booze flowed freely and soon, a game of dare started. The programmers were being tasked to the the impossible with the laptops open on the desk that was centrally positioned in the hall. It was a competition where the winner became revered.
In their drunken state, they all attempted to beat the computer and win. Anwhal entered and lost after three games: there were five games in all. Akeem reluctantly entered the game, his head was a daze, his vision blurry and he couldn’t see the keys on the keyboard clearly. Anwhal rooted for him, the judge asked if he could play, and he nodded. That instant became his defining moment.
He banished his demons, cleared his head, by shaking it vigorously. At first, it seemed as though he would be consumed by the ground, but he held still and found that he was standing still when the haze passed. He studied the computer, looked at his objectives and one after the other, he met them, under the stipulated time. He won the competition, was inducted into the Indian hackers club and then he went home with Anwhal still basking in the euphoria.
The next morning, he got a call, somebody who needed a secure file deleted from a company’s mainframe. The client was willing to pay him a hundred thousand dollars for his troubles. He accepted the job. That was how he started the myth that became the Creep. After two more years in India and countless scams hashed, the authorities began closing in on him, that was when he decided that home was the best place to operate from.
Using his already popular legend, Akeem sold his services to the highest bidder, lived fast and partied hard once he got back to Nigeria. However, his core never changed. He found that he detested noise and as such always spent very little time in clubs.
He walked down the beach moving away from all the noise and bother of the world. His last job weighed heavy on his heart. Having promised himself that he would retire, he was forced back to the computer for one more job. One more hash. The job paid him half a billion naira, and he couldn’t decline that kind of pay day. He accepted.
The job was well executed, he did his part excellently, then he found to his dismay that two of the five men that negotiated with him had died. He was no fool, though their deaths for all intents and purposes were accidental, he had connected the dots. He was certain one or two more of his employers would bite the dust soon. He couldn’t contemplate who. He shivered slightly as he treaded the beach sands.
Justin was in a frenzy, he had searched for Akeem at two previous beaches and found no trace of the hacker. He had made countless calls to Jide who was helping him monitor Akeem. After leaving the second beach, Jide called him.
‘Dude, Akeem’s not so far from you. You know the drill, just seek him out and chat with him. If he agrees to help, then congratulations.’
‘Yeah, yeah,’ Justin said teminating the call. He was losing faith in Jide and his sanguine approach. He searched the beach, scanning to see if he could see anyone that remotely resembled Akeem. After almost ten minutes, he gave up his search and asked for help.
The man he asked was of immense help. ‘Akeem? Why, he just stalked off towards the beach. He likes the quiet. Just walk in that direction.’
Justin thanked the man and went after Akeem. He broke into a run when he determined that the man no longer could see him. He searched the water bank peering into the darkness as he slowed his pace.
He had been walking for almost twenty minutes when he heard an indistinct sound. It was hard to differentiate it from the noise of the waves, still he could swear he heard something. Justin paused and listened. He heard the indistinct sound again, this time a little clearer.
He broke into a run as he moved towards the sound. Fifty metres away, he saw a mass on the sea bank. Water lapped over it as the waves of the sea undulated. He walked toward the mass unafraid. Twenty metres away, he determined it was a human being. He ran and lifted the person, kneeling in the sand as he tried to offer aid.
The person gasped then mumbled, ‘Akeem. Find.’ And then he breathed his last, collapsing in Justin’s hands as he died.
Justin threw away the lifeless body and backed away as one would recoil from a snake. He began rising slowly wondering what the dead man meant by his last words. ‘Akeem. Find.’ The hell did that mean? He got his answer an instant later.
The sound of police sirens as well as powerful head lights illuminating the dark sand banks told him he didn’t want to be found standing beside the dead man. Everything was happening so fast, Justin didn’t think, he just took to his heels and ran. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him mustering energy he didn’t realise he had until suddenly someone grabbed in out of the dark throwing him off balance.
Justin fell to the ground and tried to roll away. He was too slow. Someone locked his neck in a vice between his arms. The air passage to his carotid artery was cut off as he steadily began losing air. Justin knew that he had a few seconds left. Minutes if he was lucky, before his neck was snapped and broken.
He relaxed his body and sank into the sand. His assailant also shifted forward with his weight. Justin sprung his assailant, as he threw the man off him. He got up quickly ready to attack, then he stopped when he got a good look at his assailant. ‘Akeem?’ He said in disbelief.
‘Yes. who wants to know.’ Akeem shrugged, his back on the sands.
© Derin Gbadebo 2013