‘How’s that even possible? How can you two contrive to say that the money’s disappeared?’ Captain Ali got off the chair and stared at the monitor.
Akeem and Justin stood away, watching him. Both wanted to say that it was the captain’s fault, but neither had the balls to irk the subdued military man. It was bad enough that they were in a military cantonment.
‘So, what happens now, what are we supposed to do? How do we catch these people? Talk to me here guys? Except you want me to unleash the force of the army on you.’
Justin found a chair and sat. The money was gone, his life was over. He only wished that the captain’s boys would be kind enough to swiftly end his miserable existence. He sat there and thought of her – Ugochi, she deserved to be happy, deserved to smile. His lips moved but no words escaped as he said a little prayer for her.
Akeem knew his run had ended, with the money gone, his leverage had vanished. The deal was to gather the money and share with the Army Captain in exchange for the specialised services like the termination of certain people discreetly as well as his exit plan and subsequent cover up to insure him from prosecution. Now that the money was gone… He too found a chair and sank into it heavily.
Seidu watched as the trio surrendered and withdrew into their thoughts. He shifted uneasily wondering if his presence was needed in the room again. Somehow, he knew he didn’t want to be a part of the events that would unfold afterward. It was as though he was clairvoyant, brisk footfalls were heard approaching the computer room and slowly Seidu and the rest turned their heads to the door to see who it was.
Five men entered the room and stopped. The man leading the pack wore only white undershirt, a pair of khakis and slip-on loafers. His eyes were bloodshot giving the impression that he had been roused from sleep at such ungodly hour. Justin checked his wristwatch and was alarmed to see that the time was three thirty a.m. how did the time fly so fast, he mused.
Captain Ali stood up and pushed his chest out. Seidu did the same as both men saluted the underdressed man who apparently outranked them. ‘You’re both under arrest,’ the man said calmly and stepped aside for his entourage to apprehend Captain Ali and Seidu. Neither struggled. As they went with three of the men. ‘Now,’ the man cracked a smile, which one of you is Justin?’
Justin first reaction was to look at Akeem who was pointing at him. The damn hack didn’t even waste time before giving him up. Justin’s shoulders drooped and he hung his head. ‘I am,’ he mumbled.
The man advanced towards him and hugged him, smiling broadly. ‘Congratulations kid, today’s your lucky day.’
Justin was confused. Akeem stood still wondering what the man was about and why he was hugging Justin. He didn’t have to wonder for long as Mr. Adams made his way into the office. Akeem sank back into his chair.
Justin saw the man who had caused him the most trouble in his life and struggled to break free of the strange man’s embrace. Surprisingly, the man packed a lot of power in his muscles and held Justin still. ‘You!’ Justin continued struggling to break free.
‘Yes me,’ Mr Adams said as he walked into the room and took a seat exactly where Justin had sat when they first got into the room. ‘Charles, please let the boy go.’
The man released Justin and patted him on the back. ‘Be grateful kid, that man already saved your life.’ Then he turned to Mr. Adams, ‘it’s Colonel Amadi, Tahir. Don’t use my first name in the barracks.’ He glared.
Mr Adams waved him off. ‘Okay okay, Colonel. I get it. Why is he here though? I thought you would have arrested him too.’ Mr Adams pointed at Akeem.
Colonel Amadi glanced at a subdued Akeem. ‘He’s a bloody civilian, and I wanted the police to have first crack at him. Besides, I’ve coordinated with a few of them and in a weird way, your boy here is on everyone’s list. It’s a wonder we got to him first.’
‘What do you mean he’s on everyone’s list?’ Mr Adams frowned. ‘The kid’s a victim and he’s supposed to suffer? What is wrong with you people?’
‘I already took care of that, and the Inspector that initiated the alert was unreachable when they radioed him earlier. He will be here before the day dawns.’
‘He better.’ Mr Adams declared. Then he smiled at Justin, ‘young man, I’m sorry that I had to lie to you. Really, I am, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, but events took a dangerous turn and I had no option but to scare you off.’
Justin stood still eyeing the soldier that stood lazily by the door. He didn’t need a rocket scientist to tell him that with the soldier there, there was no way he could get to Mr Adams. He focused on the seated man, ‘lied to me? You’ve ruined my life!’
‘On the contrary young man, I saved your life.’
‘A plan was hatched, a game started, you were the key, I was the umpire, unwitting I dare add. Anyway, it got bloody – the game, and I had to scare you off or you would have been killed too.’ Mr. Adams explained.
‘Good job then,’ Justin clapped. ‘Akeem and I barely escaped been blown to bits on the sea and you’re there claiming that you’ve saved me. Get real. You tried to kill me, but failed.’ Justin’s anger was controlled.
The soldier standing by the door became alert and moved three steps into the room. The move was to dissuade Justin from doing anything rash.
‘You tried to kill me.’ Justin protested and sat on a desk.
‘No, I didn’t. I’ve had your best interest at heart. Remember how I said that I liked you and would make you invaluable to your employers? That’s all I’m guilty of. Propping you up too fast.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Justin’s eyes knitted.
‘You became a target due to your performance at work. Your friend, he got two guys working against each other to steal money from your portfolio. I’m sure you’ve met both Akeem and Jide. They’re the ones who did this to you.’
‘I’m sorry?’ Justin managed to say. It was unbearable. His friend, two hacks, his friend had done this? Segun! The realisation crushed him. ‘What did I do to warrant this?’ He turned to Akeem.
Akeem shrugged. ‘It’s nothing personal bro. Besides, you fucked up my exit plan. I only had to bring you here, get my passport and be gone. Now, I can only hope I’m a free man in two years.’
‘You won’t be out in two years kid. More like ten if I have anything to say in the matter.’ Colonel Amadi smiled. Just then, his phone rang and he answered it. ‘Yes, yes, I’d like to see you now in the army cantonment Ikeja. Bring your men. I have a gift for you. The case you stumbled upon has been solved. See you soon.’ He terminated the call. ‘That was the police. They have your friend.’ He patted Justin’s back and stood up. ‘Take this one and prepare him for the police. Make him very uncomfortable, he’ll be happy to see them when they arrive.’
‘Yessir!’ The lone soldier saluted smartly and grabbed Akeem roughly. He led Akeem out of the room in no time.
‘Well then, I’ll leave you two to sort your differences. Just know kid, he’s one of the good guys.’ Colonel Amadi also left leaving Justin and Mr Adams alone.
Justin folded his hand across his chest and stared at Mr. Adams menacingly.
‘I know you feel wronged, I would too. But look on the bright side, everything’s back to normal. The money’s back where it belonged, you can go back to your job as if nothing happened and continue the rise to the top management position. It’s what I promised you, it’s what will happen. Trust me. I have your best interest at heart.’ Mr Adams stood, and walked over to Justin. ‘Now, let’s leave this dreadful place before the police get here. I assume they’ll want to take you in for questioning too, and I can’t allow that yet. So, come with. We have a lot to discuss.
Justin watched the older man walk out the door before he followed. He wondered what new adventure he was embarking on, as he too, slowly, grudgingly, followed after Mr Adams.
Ten days had passed since the whole incident of running around and missing funds. Ten hours of inglorious running and chasing the fleece that was never missing or hidden. As Justin stepped out of his car into the company premises, he couldn’t help breathing in the fresh air of freedom and exultation. He had thought his life was over only to be handed another lease on life.
He had gone with Mr Adams that morning, and two hours later, the police had come for him. Mr Adams would have none of it and the police had to speak to him there. He met Barrister Akanni, a hard as nails lawyer who chewed Inspector Bala to bits before allowing the hapless policeman a few minutes with Justin. Ugochi came after the police had left and he was happy to see her.
Mr Adams spoke to their employers, and both employees were allowed a week’s break from work. Segun was sacked and the police had a field day with him, as well as Akeem. They learned that there was no such group called the Gatekeepers, just the invention of Segun, Jide and Akeem with a few other greedy people that were all dead thanks to Nureni and Captain Ali’s skills. Mr Adams had been approached and showed he didn’t have any say in the matter, so he played along. Waiting for the time when the hacks would slow down, or show a little weakness.
He engaged the service of another more experienced hacker to hide the money and mask the account. Then he had called Justin in order to start a chain reaction. As he predicted, Justin panicked, Segun called the late Jide and Jide pointed Justin to Akeem. The circle was established and Mr Adams people monitored Justin. It was a pity that Mr Adams, staff had been killed on the beach. He was the one Justin had run into before encountering Akeem.
As Justin stepped into the office, all seemed well, he was on top of his game and he felt alive again. He went to his computer started the machine and before it fully booted he went in search of Ugochi. He found her in the library. ‘Do you ever leave this place?’ He asked, a smile forming at the edge of his lips.
She raised her eyelid as she glanced over at him. Shouldn’t you be at your desk atoning for your near miss? Or have we become senile, we let that go?’
Justin walked slowly into the library, delibrately running his hands over large volumes of books. ‘There’s no atonement to be made, except this…’ He caught her and kissed her deeply.
Ugochi responded dropping the files she held and moaning softly as she grabbed his head and kissed him back hungrily. Then the kiss broke and neither spoke for a few seconds. ‘You’re a bad influence. Remind me to get a sanction against you coming to visit me here okay?’ She smoothed her dress and bent down to pick the files she had dropped.
‘How about dinner then? Let’s just take the night off and run…’
Justin was interrupted by the alarm that sounded through the office complex. He grabbed Ugochi and they both made their way out of the library. That was when they saw it. All the other staff were gathered at the lobby staring at the news on CNN. ‘What’s happening?’ Justin asked no one in particular, then he read the scrolling text on the TV screen. The United States stock exchange had crashed, and like wildfire, the crash was having ripple effects on other international markets dragging them down. England, China, Germany, even Russia.
Justin slowly walked away from the packed group. ‘Not again,’ he mumbled, ‘not again.’ He found a seat in the adjoining waiting area and sat, staring into space.
Ugochi found him there after almost five minutes. ‘Justin, I’ve been searching all over for you, what’s wrong? Why are you so pensive?’
Justin managed a weak smile. ‘I survived the money game Chi, I did, I just don’t see how I’m going to survive this. It’s over, this run, these games, it’s all over. I’ve finally lost.’ He held his head in his hands.
Ugochi walked to him and sat beside him, then she took his head and buried it in her bosom. She knew without a doubt that they would need to start seeking new employment soon. First, they would have to clear the rubble that the crash would generate. Their run playing with other peoples money had suddenly come to an end. The money game had ended.
© Derin Gbadebo 2014