The next day, Uche called me. She sounded a bit subdued. “I just got off the phone with a James Mulligan from the CIA and two military heavy-weights,” she said after we’d gotten the pleasantries out of the way.
“Mhmm,” I said. I’d woken up at five. Two hours of training in sitting room turned mini-gym had me sweating up a storm. I needed a shower.
“Thanks,” she said.
I smiled. “No problem.” She was a good woman, Uche. A great handler too. And strong. You don’t find a lot of women like her these days. And she was very professional and efficient without being too standoffish.
“So, this is apparently something big then,” she said.
“What did they tell you?” I needed to know what she knew so I’d know the amount of info I could share with her.
“Nothing much really. Just that Delson was into something big and very dangerous, and that you were going to under.”
“True that.” I tossed the towel that I’d hung on my neck onto my bed, peeled my training clothes off and dropped them in a basket by the bathroom door, and then walked into the bathroom. Apparently they’d not told her much.
“What happened to wanting some rest, something easy?”
“Well, they appealed to my soft side.”
“I didn’t know you had one.”
“I don’t.” I turned on the shower. “Look, I need to shower now. Is there anything else they have for me?”
“I’m to receive a package today for you. A file.”
“Okay. I’ll come around later to collect it.”
“Anything you think I should know about this?” Uche asked.
I smiled. “Don’t worry Uche, if you need to, you will.”
“Okay. I’ll leave you now. Thanks for standing up for me.”
“You’re welcome.” I cut the call, put my phone on the window sill and started to have my bath. When I finished, I dried off, and as I got dressed for the day, I received a mail. It was from Delson Pharma, requesting me to be at 34 Toby Street, G.R.A. at 10 a.m. I wasn’t to be late. I smiled. Shook my head and chuckled.
Time to make breakfast.
At 10 a.m., I was on my way to Uche’s office.
“Nice of you to drop by,” Uche said, not looking up from her system. Her office was a modest-sized one, even though she owned the shipping company that she operated out of. She made enough money from that to live comfortably, but Uche had an adventurous streak. I think she’d thought in the beginning that using her company as cover was something exciting, that maybe she would be going on missions and all.
Too many 007 movies maybe.
So far, the most exciting thing she has done is learning how to fire a gun and taking some self-defence classes. I hope that’s all the excitement she’ll ever get.
I sat down. I was dressed in blue jeans, Gore-Tex boots , a T-shirt and a knee-length jacket, black and plain. Needed it to conceal the Beretta 90two in my hip holster. I felt it on my spine, but I was used to it. “What do you have for me?”
“Just a minute. You want anything? Tea, water, jui-“
“Water will do just fine, thank you.”
“Well, don’t just sit there,” she said, motioning to the cooler in the corner. “Help yourself.”
“What happened to your secretary?”
“Her job is to cater to my wants, not yours.”
I chuckled and got up to get some water. Sipping from the disposable cup, I let my eyes run over the books she displayed on her shelf. I knew that beneath the desk was a Walther P99 in a special holster taped to the underside of the desk, facing forward and within her reach. There were also two sheathed fighting knives taped to the underside of her left drawer. I knew about them, ‘cos I’d put them there, and I’d thought her how to use them. I always like capable handlers. One thing I knew about Uche was that she was a remarkable woman. And single. I’d wondered why she didn’t have a relationship earlier, but given her principles, I know she’s this way cos she doesn’t want to lie to any man.
“Okay.” She opened her right drawer and picked up a flat case, as wide and large as a notebook. I took it and unzipped it to reveal a tablet PC unlike one I’d ever seen. Hmm. The Company must’ve been upgrading seriously. I ignored Uche’s question of what it was, and turned it over. Nothing else. I found the power button, turned it on. A message flashed on the screen; I was to look at the camera. I did, and an LED light flashed over my right eye. Retinal scanner. Serious. When my identity had been confirmed, I saw a homepage, blank except for a folder. Encrypted. These boys were not playing. I had to go through this in the privacy of my apartment.
Uh oh,” Uche said.
“What?” I asked without looking over.
“Delson Pharma seems pissed that you didn’t show up for your appointment this morning. Where was it supposed to be?”
I told her.
“Isn’t it an incomplete shopping plaza?” What kind of appointment will they want to have with you there?”
I chuckled. “That’s not what made me ignore them. They somewhat ordered me to be there.”
Uche laughed. “They do not know you.”
“True, but I have a question.”
“Okay, but I have a question. How did this opening in Delson Pharma come up? Who recommended me for this?”
Uche was silent for a while. Then she said, “Seriously, I don’t know.”
“Okay.” I turned off the tablet PC, zipped it back in its case and handed it over. “I’ll be back. I need your car keys.”
Uche took the folder and put it back in her drawer, then handed over her keys. “Where are you going?”
“Nowhere specific. I’ll be back soon.” I left her office, went downstairs and down to the garage. Her car was a Toyota 4Runner. I climbed in drove through the open gates and made my way to one of my favourite places in the city; the Herbert Macaulay Public Library. A quiet place. It took me about thirty minutes to get there. I parked somewhere by the side of the building, taking care to make the car as visible as possible from that point, got out and went inside. I went upstairs, took a seat by the window facing the gate, and settled down to wait.
I didn’t have to wait for long.
They came in exactly six minutes and twenty seconds later. They drove a gleaming new Toyota Corolla, the one the youths called Toyota Spider. I smiled.
Mistake number one. Never try to follow me without my knowledge.
Mistake number two, never follow anybody in a vehicle that stands out.
I watched them locate Uche’s jeep, and then they parked. All the doors excluding the one people normally called ‘Owner’s Seat’ opened, and three men in Dark suits stepped out. They all wore dark shades.
What is it with goons like these and dark shades?
One of them walked to Uche’s car and peered inside. Checked the back. Turned and shook his head. One pointed inside the library, said something.
I got up and went downstairs. From the stairwell, I saw the back of Goon Number One as he checked the people sitting behind partitions. A few looked up at him. As I walked towards the door, I saw him with my peripheral vision. He did a double-take, and then followed me as I walked out the door. I didn’t hurry; I walked normally, as if I were oblivious to any danger.
Well, there was none. Not from them.
I walked past the ones outside towards Uche’s jeep. I made to take out the keys.
“Mr Ikechukwu,” one of them said. I stopped. I didn’t turn around. I sensed their approach. “Are you not Ikechukwu?” another one asked. I remained silent, but I turned to look at them, keeping my expression impassive. The three of them were grouped together in front of me, trying their best to burst out of their tight, black T-shirts and suits. A formidable-looking trio of men.
Mistake number three. Never stand this close to me unless I allow you to.
“Who are you,” I asked.
“Come with us.”
“I say Oga said-“
I struck hard and fast. My fists shattered the glasses in the faces of the men on either side, and I crashed my right foot into the groin of the one in the center. That one wasn’t going to be walking anywhere anytime soon. Amid the howls of pain and surprise, I pivoted on my left leg and slammed the hard, callused edge of my right hand on the neck of the goon on my left. He crumpled just as I turned to the other one, kicked him in the back of the knee, yanked his head back and punched him square on the bridge of his nose, breaking it. Then I turned and kicked the middle goon in the chin. He blacked out just as a male voice shouted “ENOUGH!”
I stepped back and turned to look at him. He was only halfway out of the car. His eyes were wide and he clutched the top of the door protectively. I walked up to him, and he tried as hard as he could to stand up straight. He was a slight-looking man with the air of one unsure of himself in the presence of authority.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I-I-You were supposed to come to G.R.A. earlier today,” he said defensively. “I am from De-” he glanced behind me. I kept my gaze on him. “I am from Delson Pharmaceuticals Jesus ARE THEY DEAD?”
“No,” I said, “but I hate being followed. And you need to teach your boys some respect.”
“You beat them all up before I could come out of the car!”
“They’ll live. What do you want with me? I am not supposed to see you guys for another five days.”
“We-we needed to give you something.” He glanced behind me, but this time in the direction of the library. This time, I turned to look. Quite a number of people had come out to see what was going on.
“I guess you have to get out of here soon. What did you have for me?” He looked at me, as if unsure, and then his eyes lit up. He turned and brought out a large, brown envelope from the back seat, and handed it over.
I felt it; documents probably. “I’m going now. Don’t you ever follow me again. You’ll have to drive your boys home.” I walked back to the jeep, opened it, got in and drove out, taking care not to drive over the guys on the ground. As I drove past, the other man kept staring at me, a mixture of helplessness, disbelief and fear on his face.
Well, he had work to do. And so did I.