Akeem rode like a maniac and Justin kept pace. Their bikes flew on the road as they sped away from Abule Egba. The noise generated by the bikes could rattle a whole building, but neither cared. Their adventure had being deadly even before they decided to run to ride the powerbikes, it’s introduction only brought more panache and increased their adrenalin. Akeem slowed down after the Ikeja bypass as he approached the Sam Ethnan air force base, they rode past it, and within a few seconds turned into Ikeja and rode towards the army cantonment.
Justin wondered what Akeem was doing as he rode to the front of the military barracks and stopped. He also stopped behind Akeem, alert and ready to beat a hasty retreat before the shit hit the fan. Whilst Akeem’s bike was turned off, his own bike sat idling. Justin’s eyes darted left and right as he tensed.
Akeem motioned to a sentry at the military cantonment gate, then he took off his helmet and shook his head vigorously as a rush of wind blew over his face and head. ‘Oga sir, abeg I wan see Captain Yusuf Ali. Hin dey expect me, just tell am say AK don show.’ He addressed the soldier in pidgin English to hasten the conversation.
The sentry stared at Akeem suspiciously, then he looked over at Justin. ‘Na who be that one?’ He had a distinct northern accent and though Akeem could not see his face in the darkness, Akeem knew he was Hausa.
Akeem shrugged as he cast a quick glance at Justin. He would have asked the soldier to go jump in the sea or found a subtle way abuse the retard. He couldn’t however, he was well aware of the sniper rifle that had been trained on them since they made the mistake to stop. He shook his head in self pity, that Justin guy really is a sweet kid he thought, otherwise Justin would know that he was in more danger with his bike’s engine running instead of being switched off.
‘He’s with me.’ Akeem addressed the soldier.
The man’s anger rose for no apparent reason, and he lashed out. ‘Dan boroba waka! You dey form big man on top that okada ko?! Oya off that thing now!’ He started moving threateningly towards Justin as he raised the rifle by his side flipping the safety switch and cocking the gun in a deft move that took only seconds.
On the tower, the sniper adjusted his scope and waited. He was ready to end the miserable life that sat on the bike.
Justin didn’t have to be told twice. He raised his hands and slowly got off the bike. Inwardly, he was groaning, damn Akeem for bringing him to the soldiers. ‘Ah, oga, I no mean to offend you o.’ Justin apologised quickly as the soldier got to him.
‘Paaa!’ Justin didn’t see the soldier’s hand rise or fall. He only felt the stinging sensation as the slap landed perfectly on his left cheek. He saw stars, counted more than a hundred in two seconds and he was still reeling when he heard an authoritative voice behind the soldier that had slapped him. ‘Stop! Let him go.’ It was an order.
The soldier saluted smartly and stood like a rock at the appearance of the senior officer. ‘Did I not tell you that I am expecting AK? And that you should bring him to me immediately?’ Captain Yusuf Ali was livid.
‘Sir, sorry sir.’ It was all the soldier offered by way of apology.
Captain Ali studied him for a while. ‘Later,’ he said, then he turned to Akeem who was already off his bike. ‘How are you man?’ He offered his hand to Akeem.
Akeem took the outstretched hand and shook it. ‘I’m cool boss, you know me. Anyway, are you ready for me? Can we proceed?’
‘Chill, slow down. Who’s that?’ He nodded at Justin.
‘Oh, him?’ Akeem spared Justin a glance, ‘he’s just a pet project I took up. Don’t worry about him now, although, his connection will most definitely intrigue you. Besides, I think he’s the key.’ Akeem leaned forward and whispered the last part to Captain Ali.
‘Hmmm,’ the army Captain mulled over the information he had just received. ‘Seidu, let them in, take them to my office. I dey come.’ With that, he spun around and walked off into the darkness as quietly as he had come.
Justin’s hand was nursing his cheek when the soldier turned to him. ‘Oya make we go. And make I tell you now, no dey do that kain thing again, you fit die. See…,’ he pointed at the sniper in the tower. ‘…Hin for just kill you like that.’ He started walking into the cantonment.
Akeem followed without question whilst Justin stood still tethering between the desire to clear his name and the fear of the unknown if he followed the duo. After what seemed like an eternity, he grabbed the bag containing the laptop and ran after Akeem and Seidu. His only prayer then was to get out of the army barracks alive.
‘Make una enter, sit down for that side. You must not touch anything in this office till oga comes, kajiko?’ Seidu sounded his warning as Akeem and Justin walked into the large computer room. It was a control centre of sorts as it was strewn with computers connected to headsets lying on the desks. The lighting in the room was perfect, but all the computer systems had been shut down.
Akeem wandered into the room smiling. He was like a boy who unwittingly got lost in a room filled with chocolate candy. He spied the chairs at the end of the room which Seidu had ordered them to sit in. Then he looked at the computers and felt the compelling urge to start them up and in a way the Nigerian Army had never used their machines, hack into their mainframe and have a little fun with it.
Justin walked into the room and took his seat quietly, he placed the laptop bag on his lap scanned the room. His curiousity was piqued, but not wanting to incur the wrath of Seidu, he sat still, wriggling his toes. He found he didn’t even know the soldier’s rank and that irked him a little.
They hadn’t been in the room for five minutes when Captain Ali entered. He smiled as he saw Akeem standing, staring at the computers, studying their physical connections via the wires that lay strewn between computer workstations. ‘Ah!’ Captain Ali exclaimed brightly. ‘I see you’re trying to make sense of those. Let me assure you, you can’t touch the programming.’
‘Really?’ Akeem spun around, his eyes challenging Ali to allow him a few seconds with the computers.
Captain Ali smiled, ‘I can’t allow you dude, I would get court martialled for leaking confidential information. Remember, you’re here in an advisory capacity. My informant. Let’s stick strictly to business, okay?’
Akeem shrugged. ‘Okay. Now, what do you have for me?’
Captain Ali handed Akeem a brown envelope he had been hiding behind his back all the while. ‘You’ll find it’s as requested.’
Akeem collected the envelope, brought out a new Ecowas passport and he flipped to the informations page, Maurice Andrews his name read, and he was from the riverine area of Delta. He smiled as he checked to see the passport had been stamped with three visas: American, British and Russian. He quickly pocketed the passport then turned to Justin who had been watching the exchange scandalised at what he could tell was an illegal transaction.
‘That’s Justin, he’s all you need to snuff out the Gatekeepers. For the first time in their miserable lives, the Gatekeepers have unwittingly chosen a key to unravel their myth and legend.’ Akeem started walking away.
‘Not so fast,’ Captain Ali held Akeem back. ‘You promised facts, details. Now you’re just going to point a scrawny kid at me and expect to walk away from here a changed man? Tsk,’ he hissed, ‘spill the information.’
‘What I have is inconsequential compared to what lies on his laps. Take a look see, you’ll be blown away.’ Akeem pointed at Justin.
Captain Ali stood there, torn between letting Akeem go and exploring the information he had just received. He made the decision to exercise both options simultaneously. ‘Seidu!’ Seidu came into the room and saluted smartly. ‘He doesn’t leave, yet.’ Captain Ali pointed at Akeem, then he proceeded towards Justin. ‘Hand it over.’ He stretched his hand forward.
Justin had watched everything, and concluded that Akeem had just pawned him off for a cheap price. He had been filtering his options since the passport had exchanged hands and as Captain Ali stood before him, hand outstretched, Justin came to a decision. ‘Akeem stays, you collect that passport from him and clear my name. That’s when I won’t care about how you decide to handle this.’
‘You’re in no position to negotiate young man. Hand over the bag quietly and you have a prayer of getting out of this alive.’ Captain Ali threatened, his facade slowly becoming a dark scowl.
Justin rose up calmly, started handing the laptop bag over, then without warning, he smashed the bag hard on the floor everyone heard the crunching sound of the impact as the laptop parts came undone. ‘Now, you can kill me.’ Justin said calmly and sat down.
‘No!’ Akeem screamed as he fell forward on his knees.
Captain Ali’s upper lip twitched as he struggled to keep his emotion under control. Damn this kid, he had underestimated the bastard, and that action had cost him a valuable asset. He turned around to face Akeem and noticed that his informant was kneeling on the floor his head in his hands. Captain Ali looked from Justin to Akeem and back at Justin. He finally turned to face Akeem. ‘Seems like your friend here didn’t want to be lonely afterall. And now, you get to earn your reputation here. Get the hard drive.’ He kicked the bag towards Akeem.
Akeem stopped the sliding bag, looked over at Justin with a deadly gaze, then a sinister smile broke on his face. ‘Nicely played Justin.’ He picked up the bag and stood up: set the bag on a workstation and proceeded to open the bag. ‘This will be but a minute.’ He said to no one in particular as all other three – Justin, Captain Ali and Seidu looked on.
Segun had not slept for a minute all night. After speaking with both Inspector Bala and Ugochi, he found that his adrenaline level had shot up, he had become too tightly wound to relax. The mystery and order from Ugochi had piqued him making him wonder what she had gotten herself into. Then the Police Inspector had called back and he following her orders had respectfully cancelled their meeting. Inspector Bala didn’t seem to mind, he just waved it off and thanked Segun for his help. That was what was driving Segun nuts.
Those two had come to an understanding. Something he knew he shouldn’t be concerned with. As far as he could tell, and proofs exist, he hadn’t done anything wrong, or had he? Segun buried his head in his hand lost in thought. That was when it happened.
His phone rang, startling him. Segun raised his head and observed the phone for a while. Then he casually reached for it and answered the call. ‘Yes? You shouldn’t be calling me, haven’t you done enough?’
‘No, not really.’ The voice on the line answered. ‘We had a deal, and so far, all I’m getting from you are loose ends. I need you to step up. Clean your shit.’ The call terminated.
‘Mschew.’ Segun hissed. Fools, who did they think they were ordering him about? He checked the time on the phone before angrily tossing it back on the bed. He stood up and paced his room. Four more hours and he would slip away. Put the unfolding nightmare behind him and go far away. Segun went back to his bed, laid out on it and prayed for a little sleep. He wasn’t sure he would be sleeping at all that night.
‘Ah! Finally.’ Akeem gushed. ‘We’re in business.’ He smiled as though he had won a jackpot.
Captain Ali heaved a sigh of relief and looked at Justin who hung his head, crushed. Justin knew he had lost his leverage and since Akeem had been able to virtualise the data on the hard drive he had become dispensable. That realisation settled chillingly on him as he gritted his teeth and tried to remain calm.
‘Pull up all the applications, and do your magic. I want this laptop to give up its secrets without me having to ask.’ Captain Ali said.
‘Already did.’ Akeem hit the enter button for emphasis. The smile was getting bigger by the second. ‘It’s a very good masking attempt, but I’ve uncovered…’ He paused as the smile disappeared and colour drained from his face. He suddenly looked like he had seen a ghost.
Captain Ali noticed the change in tone and turned to Akeem, ‘what is it?’
Justin suddenly felt a little hope. If Akeem couldn’t crack the computer, then, he may just get to use his ace. He would know his fate in the following minutes, he relaxed and smiled.
Seidu stood still in the room, an unwavering, unswerving rock. He didn’t seem the least perturbed by the events going on in the room. Although, when Justin had smashed the computer, he had shot the annoying little bastard between the eyes – in his mind of course. Justin was still alive, breathing and the pain he felt if any, were more mental than physical. He wished his boss could allow him have a crack at Justin.
‘…Son of a bitch!’ Akeem exclaimed as he started punching the keypad of the computer furiously. ‘No! No!’ He was panicking.
Captain Ali’s brow creased. ‘What’s happening?’
‘Jide moved the money to different accounts before he was murdered. I can’t undo the process, he has the only code, and if I don’t do it now, the money will be gone in an hour.’ Akeem reported dejected. Jide had rallied and beaten him in death, Akeem thought as he remembered the dead hack.
‘Damn! And there’s nothing you can do about this? Absolutely nothing?’ Captain Ali crowded Akeem and the computers.
Justin jumped the gun then, ‘if I help, Akeem stays on, and when this is over, I also get three passports with new identities and visas to see the world.’
Captain Ali regarded him for a while. He knew he was very close to blowing the case out of water, but he needed their help. He contemplated Justin’s request determining that the boy would not be making any further requests. ‘If you’re able to help, then the same treatment meted to Akeem would be accorded you.’
Justin smiled, ‘in the spirit of full disclosure, let me just say that apart from Jide, I’m the guy. And since he’s out of the picture eternally, you’ll have to deal with me.’ He held Captain Ali’s gaze.
Captain Ali turned to Akeem, ‘when were you going to tell me Jide’s dead?’
Akeem shrugged. ‘I wasn’t. You would have heard of it in the news, the police got there way before we could ransack the house.’
‘Wait!’ Captain Ali held up a finger as his hand short forward. ‘You killed him?’
‘I would love to claim that bounty, but somone beat us to it.’ Akeem shrugged again.
Captain Ali turned to Justin who also still standing and threw up his hand. ‘Since you’re courting my favour, can you at least tell me what happened?’
Justin smiled. ‘With pleasure.’ Then he recounted the events of the evening to Captain Ali with Seidu listening with rapt attention. Both men of the Nigerian Military devoured his words and when he was done, Justin smiled and declared, ‘now to the password, have you cracked it yet?’ The question was directed at Akeem.
Captain Ali turned to Akeem who shook his head as he hung his head and his shoulders drooped.
Justin’s smile broadened. ‘No matter what you do, you can’t guess it, and algorithms will mess you up big time. Now, try this: AkeemIsTheKey and let’s see.’ Justin moved to the cubicles and wrote down the password.
Akeem eyed him suspiciously, then he typed the password and pressed enter. The application gave a beep sound and all three stood there watching the computer screen, nothing happened.
Seidu was slowly inching into the office when the computer blipped again and displayed WELCOME.
© Derin Gbadebo 2013