Mark’s phone rang at 12 o’clock. He picked it. “Hello.”
“Good to know you are up and about Detective.”
“Hello Stone. Thanks for not visiting me in the Hospital.”
Stone chuckled on the other end. “C’mon. Who do you think took you there? Stayed the whole night there till I was sure you were going to make it. That’s gotta count for something, doesn’t it?”
“Yes it does”, Mark said, smiling. “Thanks. So, I guess I need you now then, or you wouldn’t be calling.”
“Yeah. About what happened last night at the CPP Regional Office.”
“What about it?”
“I have something for you. You have a pen?”
“Hold on.” Mark checked his drawer, took out a notepad and a pen. Flipped it open, smoothed out the page and said, “Okay. Give it to me.”
Stone gave him an address. “That’s where I know one of them lives. Should be the leader, I think.”
“How do you know this?”
“C’mon now Detective”, Stone said. Mark could hear the smile in his voice. “I might be out, but I still have a handle on things. How’s the family doing?”
“They are doing fine. You should come visit sometime.”
Stone chuckled, then his voice became sober. “And Bola? How is she doing?”
“She’s doing okay Stone. I think you need to forget about it man. Shit happens.”
“You won’t understand Mark, so just leave it. Now, get your butt over to the address I gave you now and do what I pay you to do.”
“Very funny Stone. How do I contact you whenever I need to?”
“Use the email address I used to contact you. Or you can call this number.” He gave him a GSM number. “If I don’t take it, send a text.”
“You are welcome. Be careful.”
Mark said, “I will”, but Stone had already cut the call. He stood up and checked his weapons, twin SIG Sauer P226 .357 pistols. Adjusted the straps of his shoulder holster. Put on his jacket. Then he went to go look for Ben.
“After Sally left” Director Tamuno said, “we stepped up our internal investigation. We’d been investigating alongside her actually, but she’d been unaware of that. As soon as she left, we took it to the highest level, and eventually, we confirmed what she had found out. An Agent named Roland Akin was behind it all. He’d been responsible for the diversion of the ammunition and the money. Word around at the time was that he was actually running a high-level arms trafficking racket from within, with another Agent too. A friend of his named Simon Diri. Diri was the man who ran the background operations here, but Roland was the main man, the connection between the buyers and the ammunition. It was a really elaborate operation actually. But in the end we untangled the web they’d created. Simon was caught, tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He died after 3 years. Prison riot.”
“The one that happened back in…?” Jerry asked, his eyebrows raised in question.
“You can’t reach him, I’m afraid.”
Director Tamuno opened his drawer and rummaged in it for a while, then took out a file and dropped it on his desk. Pushed it towards Jerry. Jerry took it, turned it the right way, and then opened it. With each page and newspaper clipping he saw, his heart sank further. In the end he closed the file and handed it back to the Director. Director Tamuno took it and put it back in his drawer.
“Well, I guess that makes my job harder while throwing things into a little bit more perspective”, Jerry said. “Thanks for your time Director.” He stood up and offered his hand.
“It’s been no problem at all Detective. Glad I could be of help. Whatever I can do to help you in your case, just let me know.”
“I will.” Jerry turned and left. Outside the office, he saw Sally, busy typing something. She looked up.
“Are you done?”
“Yes I am. Thanks for your help Sal.”
She smiled, and her hand went to her hair.
She’s nervous, Jerry thought. Then he said “Wanna go out sometime?”
Sally didn’t believe her ears. “Umm…sure. A-anytime.”
“When will you be free?”
“Aaahh, I get off work at 7 or thereabouts. Weekends, I’m usually home, except I have something special to do.”
“Hmm…Okay. How about tomorrow evening?”
What are you doing? Jerry’s mind screamed at him, and he told it shut up; I have to do this while I still can. Unless she has a boyfriend…
“Umm, okay. I can do that.”
Jerry smiled. “Okay. Great then. I’ll call you. Take care.”
“Take care too.”
Sally stared at the door long after Jerry had gone, trying her best to calm her beating heart.
Detective Mark pulled up before the gate and Detective Ben pulled up about 8 feet behind him in an unmarked car with a plainclothes Policeman. They waited as Mark got out from the car and stepped into the small gate that led into the small compound. They got out and walked towards the gate, and then Ben stopped about 4 feet from the gate and leaned on the wall, newspaper in hand. The Policeman walked past the gate, adjusting his shoulder strap under his jacket, and walked into the kiosk on the other side, about 5 feet from the gate. He took a seat, paid for and took a bottle of soft drink, and started to sip it with straw, eyes scanning the environment.
Mark walked astride the puddle that ran the length of the walkway. In the apartment he’d just passed, a baby was screaming. In another apartment a woman was screaming at someone. Mark didn’t know where it was coming from; it sounded like it was coming from everywhere at once. Someone was thinking of opening a club in the premises in broad daylight; the bass from the song was enough to give an old man a heart attack. Some kids, laughing at a TV show that sounded like a cartoon.
Outside, Ben inched closer to the gate, looked inside, saw Mark enter the last apartment on the right, saw him knock. He watched as Mark waited, and then step back for the door to open, but he didn’t see who he was talking to. Hold on, he told himself.
A rough looking man peeked through the curtains as Mark knocked.
“Who be dat?” the man barked, his voice sounding muffled.
“Police. I need to speak with John Ukot.”
“John Ukot. I need to speak with him now.”
The face disappeared and Mark heard hurried muffled conversation. Hurried footsteps; someone was running around.
“John no dey!” the man called out from inside.
“Open this door now please”, Mark said. “I know he’s in there!”
Inside the footsteps slowed, and then the muffled conversation again. Then the sound of a bolt being thrown back and a key turning in the lock. Mark stepped back a bit as the door opened. The face he’d seen through the curtain looked at him. The man was wearing a black singlet that seemed that was stretched to its limit on his broad chest. He was shorter than Mark, wearing a pair of jeans that had seen better days, and he was sweating. Mark peeped into the house over the man’s head; the fan was working.
“Who you been talk say you wan’ see again?” the man asked.
“Okon, go siddon”, a deeper voice said. A huge man stepped into view. He was a bit taller than Mark, but he was wider than Okon. His biceps were bigger than Mark’s head, and he wore no shirt or singlet. His chest stood out like two mini pillows. “I am John. How may I help you?”
“May I come in?” Mark asked, flashing his ID card.
The man seemed to consider it, his eyes a bit troubled momentarily, then he smiled and shrugged, motioned with his head for Mark to enter, and stepped aside. Mark almost missed it; an imperceptible nod of the head, then Okon stood up and went into one of the rooms on the left side of the sitting room. Mark smiled softly.
“So, what do you want to know…umm…”
“Inspector Mark” Mark said, taking note of the sitting room. The flat screen on the wall, the DVDs on the floor near the Home Theatre System. The sofas were surprisingly nice. Being an enforcer for a Political party must’ve paying really well. “Where were you last night, John?”
“Last night? I was here. At home.” John’s eyes were roving, never staying anywhere for more than 2 seconds.
“Are you sure? ’Cos 7 dead people seem to think otherwise.”
John’s eyes narrowed slightly at that. “What are you insinuating?”
“I am asking you a simple question John” Mark said. The room was quiet save for their breaths. The sounds he’d heard previously sounded far away as the tension in the room grew.
“Last night, I was home.”
“No you were not John. My source tells me you were being a very bad boy last night. Now, I am giving you a chance to come clean so that I can get who sent you. Confess to me, tell me what you know, and I might go easy on you. But if Okon tries anything stupid, I can’t guarantee what will happen. So, I ask you, one last time, where were you last night?”
John was quiet. His chest rose up and down with every breath he took. His nostrils flared.
“Don’t think about it John, for your sake.”
John’s shoulders rose up and down rhythmically, in time with his breathing.
Mark centred himself, let himself go loose. Saw everything and nothing at the same time.
Somewhere a kid cried.
Sound of dripping water, from somewhere within the house.
Okon burst out of the room, screaming as he lined up a gun in Mark’s direction, firing.
Mark was already moving.
Rolling away to the left, he took out one of his pistols, firing as he came up. Heard/felt John steamrolling towards him as Okon took 2 bullets to the chest and one to the head, pivoted and sidestepped John. Holstered his weapon quickly; didn’t want to risk shooting John.
He needed him alive.
As John turned and closed in, Mark didn’t so much move as glide in towards him. He blocked the haymaker aiming for his jaw, and his hands moved; he attacked the nerve centres and kidneys. As John cried out in pain, his arms falling to his side as they became too heavy to hold, Mark sidestepped and then smashed his foot into the side of John’s knee, pulling the kick at the last moment in order not to break it. John collapsed in a heap.
Outside, at the sounds of the gunshots, Mark and the plainclothes Police moved, drawing out their weapons. People scampered for cover as they both rushed in, Ben in front. The music and the TVs were turned off as Ben ran at a crouch, gun held out in front of him. At the end of the lane, the window in the apartment that Mark had entered opened, and someone jumped out, then froze at the sight of 2 guns pointed at him.
“Stop! Police!!” Ben shouted at him.
The man turned and ran for the wall. As he swung his leg over, Ben gripped his other leg, and pulled him down. With a yell, the man fell down.
“Watch him”, Ben told the policeman, then went inside to check on Mark. Saw him bent over a mountain of a man. A shaking mountain.
Mark looked up. “Don’t mind him; he’s alive, but his body has gone into shock. He’ll live, but his life will be painful for a couple of hours.” He gestured at the dead body by the door. “I think you better call an ambulance.”
He bent over John.
“I just saw your text message James”, Jerry said, driving as fast as he could. “I don’t understand what you wrote there at all.”
“Me neither, but I suggest you get here as fast as you can. I told him to hold on, not to say anymore until you got here. It sounds too crazy to me, but some things he said are strikingly similar to what we’ve seen in Mary’s case.”
“How come he knows so much?” Jerry was still sceptical.
“Look, I don’t know either, but I suggest you get here as fast as you can. How far out are you?”
“About 20 minutes away.” Jerry honked as a taxi driver cut across in front of him. “I’ll be there in a while.”
“Okay”, James said, then asked “How was your talk with the SS Director?”
“Well, it was something else. I’ll fill you in when I get there, after meeting with this Priest.”
“Okay then. See you in a bit.”
“Alright.” Jerry cut the call, tossed his phone on the passenger seat, and stepped on it.
As he drove, one line kept running through his head.
He says he knows who killed Mary, and that we cannot take him on our own.
It sees her.
She is already marked for death. Like Mary, she will offer her blood, her life, on the altar of his sacrifice.
Of course she will not know what is happening, until it is too late.
Blood. Young, so full of life.
The sweetest. It can already taste her.
She knows it.
She does not know it.
It knows who she is. It knows her greatest strengths, and her deepest weaknesses.
It knows her fears.
Aaah…The smell of her fear. Her nightmares have started up again lately, and she has no idea why.
She loves it.
She longs for it.
It may give her one last night, before she totally belongs to it.
Yes then. One night, to satiate the hunger that this body craves. This body with its numerous flaws.
Just one night.