Nicholas looked at the body beside him and shuddered again. Fear had nearly torn him apart, it was a miracle he was still sane. Faruk was dead in his car! There was no running away from this, he was in big trouble.
Finding a dead body in his car had shocked him greatly, he had stared at the body for what looked like ten hours after he noticed the bullet hole. He was afraid, confused and angry. Driving with a dead body was not easy, everybody on the road seemed to be looking at him, every policeman looked like they were going to stop him. He was fortunate though, despite his speed, he was not stopped at all.
Now, he was parked by the side of the road, Faruk’s body seated next to him. The road was a rough branch off a secluded road, the chances of him being found were very slight. He ran his fingers through his hair, he needed to think fast, he could not sit beside a dead body for so long.
He could help, he knew Faruk was coming to see him and why, he would understand.
His hands shook as he brought out his phone, he scrolled through his contacts, found the governor’s number and placed the call.
“Hello Mr. Akorede.” He heard a female voice answer.
“Yes, I need to speak with the governor please, it’s urgent.” He could not hide the tremor from his voice.
“I’m sorry, the governor cannot come to the phone right now. Can I take a message?”
“What? No, I’m sorry I can’t leave a message. This is very important, please link me with him. If it wasn’t urgent, I wouldn’t have called.”
“I’m sorry sir, but he is not available right now. Are you sure you don’t want to leave a message?”
“No, I cannot! This is very urgent, are you sure he… never mind.” Nicholas said and ended the call.
With no help from the governor, he was on his own. He punched the steering wheel in frustration, he winced as pain surged through his hands. He jumped as he phone rang, the governor was probably calling back.
The number was strange.
“Nicholas?” It sounded like Adam. “This is Adam.”
“Adam, how did you… did Lawal let you go?”
“Let me go? No, I escaped. I heard about Kemi, I’m really sorry.” He had forgotten about Kemi, he had been guilty of doing so a little too much during the months he had spent as C.E.O. of CyberCorp.
“Yeah, I am sorry too. Kate told me, I’m yet to go to the hospital.” There is a dead body in your car, remember? “Hey Adam, there is a bigger problem.” He swallowed. “I have a dead body in my car.”
“What!” Adam exclaimed, something crashed in the background. “A dead body? Who?”
“Faruk.” The tremor was back in his voice.
“You killed him? Nicholas!”
“No! Why would I kill him? Oh my God, if you think I could have killed him, that’s what everybody would think. Oh my God!” It was time to freak out, he was in real trouble.
“I’m sorry Nick, I just had to ask. Where exactly are you? I’ll come meet you there.”
Twenty minutes later and Adam arrived with an ambulance. Nicholas had tucked out his shirt and rolled up his sleeves, twenty minutes was a long time to spend with a corpse.
“Hey man, are you okay?” Adam said as he jumped down from the ambulance.
“Good to see you Adam, it’s not every day you spend an hour with a corpse.” Nicholas tried to force a smile as he hugged Adam tightly.
“My friend here will help with the body, we can’t keep it here. He will keep the murder secret for a while. I’ve spoken with Tola, she’s told me the governor is on this, so hopefully he will help.” He turned, looked around and shook his head.
Nicholas walked away from the body, Adam followed him.
“Adam, I’m very confused right now. You know Faruk was supposed to be our major witness against Lawal and now he’s dead.” He turned his face away to hide the tears gathering in his eyes.
“That’s a real concern, we cannot lose now, not after all this trouble. Did I tell you I was fired?” Adam said, ignoring his teary eyes.
“You were? What do we do now? Looks like the governor has to convince the party about the fraud charges.” Nicholas felt his pocket, his phone was vibrating. It was the governor calling.
“It’s the governor” he said to Adam.
“Don’t tell him about Faruk, hold on, we have it under wraps for now.”
“Why? I thought… no problem.” He picked the call. “Hello sir.”
“Mr. Akorede, I was told you called, you said it was urgent?” The governor said.
“Well, yes sir, I did. I just wanted to know if the party believes our fraud charges against Lawal. Can we count on them sir?” he knew there was no way the governor had contacted the party leadership yet, but he had nothing else to say.
“That was your urgent matter?” The governor did not sound too pleased.
“I’m sorry sir, I guess your secretary got me wrong sir, I wanted to talk to you, but it wasn’t so urgent.”
“Okay, no problem. The answer to your question is no. I’ve met with a few party leaders and they believe this is just a set up.”
“What?!” Nicholas could not believe what he just heard. “What are you saying sir?” Adam looked at him as he exclaimed.
“I’m sorry but there’s no case with this document. We still have Faruk, right? That is good enough.”
Nicholas slid the phone from his ears and dropped the call. That was it, everything had ended. He was going to jail, Lawal was going to make sure he never got out.
“Nick, the document is no good, right? I’m not surprised. The governor is a toad, no back bone, I knew he’d cave.”
“What are we… what am I supposed to do now?”
Nicholas stared out of the window as the car moved down the road. Adam who was driving had not said a word since the ambulance left with Faruk’s body, it was okay with Nicholas, he had nothing to say himself. It had been the toughest one year of his life and it could be the beginning of a tougher life. Lawal was key to whatever the future held for him; nabbing him meant peace, not doing so meant a lot of trouble.
“Wait a minute Nick, did Kate tell you what Kemi said when she woke up momentarily in the hospital?” Adam asked, a smile on his face.
“What… yes, she did. I can’t remember though, I had a lot on my mind.”
“Well, thank God Kate’s mind was a little less occupied. Kemi mentioned a Chelsea bag in a closet, didn’t she?
“Well, yeah, I think Kate mentioned that.”
“I don’t believe she was rambling, there might be something there that can help us. We need to head to Arandun, right now.”
“What! Just like that?”
“Yes Nick, just like that!”
It was an hour and twenty minutes later when they pulled into Kemi’s father’s compound. Nicholas hoped that news had not gotten to Arandun that Adam had been sacked. It was bad enough that they would be invading the privacy of a mourning family. They got out of the car and walked into the house, nobody seemed to notice them. News had just gotten to Kemi’s family that she was dead. Her mother was sitting on the floor surrounded by some women, her friends probably. Kemi’s father, the only man in the room, sat on a tall chair and stared out through the open window.
“Hello sir.” Adam greeted him. He answered with a nod, not lifting up his eyes. “You remember me sir?”
He looked up at them, Nicholas tried not to look him in the eye. “Yes, I think so. You’re a policeman, right?” He shifted his eyes to Nicholas. “Nicholas, thank you for coming, please have your seats.”
“Thank you sir. I’m really, really sorry for your loss.” Nicholas answered, about to sit.
“Actually sir, we are here because we believe your daughter might have left something that will help us catch her killer.” Adam said, shaking his head at Nicholas.
“I don’t think she left anything worth finding.” He replied standing up. “Where do you want to start?”
“Her room will be perfect sir.”
He led them to her room.
“We haven’t touched anything so the place is still as she left it. Take your time, I want this killer to be caught, he must die for what he has done to my daughter”
“Thank you sir.” Nicholas said, closing the door behind them as they entered. “So what are we looking for exactly?”
“A Chelsea bag; I’m assuming it’s a blue bag probably with Chelsea’s logo or maybe pictures of their players.”
“Okay, I’ll take this closet.” Nicholas said, pointing to a wardrobe beside him. “You take the other one. I hope this bag isn’t a small one.”
“I hope so too.”
Fifty minutes of going through two closets, twice with a fine tooth comb and there was no Chelsea bag. Nicholas stared at the closets in despair, Kemi was probably hallucinating or something when she mentioned the bag. A Chelsea bag and a false bottom, that made no sense. A false bottom!
“Adam” Nicholas exclaimed. “ Kemi mentioned a false bottom, that means there is a part of one of these closets we have not checked. A false bottom, why didn’t I remember that!”
“We have to check for false bottoms I guess, that means we’ll open all these drawers again? Let’s get to it then.”
Nicholas felt a new surge of energy as he opened the first drawer, maybe he had some hope after all. The drawer contained lipsticks, bottles of different colours, some oddly shaped plastic tubes – make up stuff. He slid his hand to the bottom of the box and tried to move it, it gave way.
“Adam, I might have found our false bottom on my very first try, how lucky is that? Wait, there is a bag… a blue Chelsea bag.” He dug out the bag, it was slim, there couldn’t be much inside.
“Lemme have it.” Adam said, collecting the bag from Nicholas. Nicholas looked at him as he removed a small piece of paper and a flash drive from the bag. His palm were getting wet, his eyes too. He could be at the end of his journey.
“What’s on the paper, Adam?”
“A note, handwritten…
‘Nick, your father was murdered by Senator Lawal with the support of your father’s wife. She told them about you, and I hope you will be alive to read this. I have audio and video evidence of this in the flash drive. The video isn’t clear, so it can’t stand in court, do what you can with it. There’s also evidence that Lawal stole from his party, I’m not sure it can stand in court either, but these should help you nail them. I’m sorry can’t do anything to prevent what might happen.’
“Wow, oh my God!”
“Nick, let’s get out of here now. I still have a house here, remember? I have a laptop there, we can check what’s on the flash.”
They were stepping out of the house when Kemi’s father called out to them.
“Hey boys, did you find anything?”
“Well, I’m sorry sir, we didn’t find anything important. I’m so sorry for your loss sir.” Adam replied.
Kemi had not lied, the flash did contain evidence, and she had lost her life because of it.
“What do we do with this, Adam? I’m confused, I don’t trust the police, I’m not so sure about the governor anymore either.”
“Okay, question; apart from politicians, who do you think has the most influence on the way this country is run?” Adam asked with a cheeky smile.
“The politicians’ wives?”
“Very funny Nick, very funny but no, I’m talking about the press. We’ll give Tola all these info, she’ll call up all her powerful friends in journalism, and they start a media storm, one that cannot be ignored.”
“That’s right, the government won’t have a choice but to investigate and prosecute. Lawal has enough enemies already and I’m sure they’ll make the charges stick. Well, this is awesome!” Nicholas said with a laugh.
He picked his phone and dialed Tola. She was going to get her fifteen minutes of fame, although she’d have to share the spotlight, if the media storm was going to be as big as they hoped for.
“Babe, I’ll send some documents into your email right now. Call up every influential journalist you know; radio, TV, print or web – everybody. Lawal is going down and you are leading the charge!”
THREE DAYS LATER
It was happening so swiftly, the media fire had been greater than he expected it to be. It looked like every politician was milking the story to build up their own careers, the governor was not left out. He had addressed the state, stating that they were not aware of all the offences the ex-governor had been accused of and he promised to investigate any fraud or embezzlement that might have taken place during Lawal’s tenure as governor.
The Police and the Ministry of Justice were having a field day, taking every opportunity to be on television and showing off the work they had done in only a few days. It was a circus show. Even the president had not being left out. He had gone on air to disclaim rumours that he was going to get Lawal out of the mess. ‘We do not aid criminals’ were the words he used.
A warrant for the arrest of Mrs. Babatunde had been issued but she committed suicide before the police could get to her. Her daughters – his sisters were under his care temporarily until a court decided if his enthusiastic Mom could legally adopt them.
Lawal himself was yet to be arrested, the police looked to be taking their time, he was under twenty-four hour surveillance, he was not going anywhere.
“Hey Nick, you know I’m in between jobs right now, how about a job at CyberCorp, huh?” Adam said, winking at Kate who was sitting next to Nicholas.
“Are you kidding, you’re my Minister of defense already, don’t you know that?” He replied with a laugh.
“I wasn’t asking, I was telling you. I’ve had enough of being a detective, wearing a suit and speaking into one of those techie earphones looks like the next step for me right now.”
“I’m sure you’ll look great in a suit.” Kate said. “Not as much as my Nick though.” She said hugging Nicholas.
When I get older – I will be stronger – They call me freedom just like a waving flag… his phone rang.
“You’re still using that ring tone? Come on son.” Adam said, tossing him the phone.
“Yeah, it reminds me of Kemi, I’m not going to change it, ever.” It was a foreign number. “Hello…”
“As-salaam Alaikum. Am I speaking to the C.E.O. of CyberCorp?”
“Yes, you are. Who is this please?”
“This is Sheikh Al Mubarak, you remember me?”
“Yes, of course I remember you.” Of course, it made sense for him to call, after all he needed a Nigerian company to handle his business.
“How’s life treating you these days?”
“Life’s great, really great!” It really was and it could only get better.