I drove back to Uche’s office without incident. I wasn’t afraid. And I didn’t regret what I had done back there.
There are some lines you just don’t cross.
Trying to intimidate me had been a very bad move on their part. Muscle doesn’t do anyone much good against someone like me. They were bodyguards, hired off the streets, most probably. Governments had spent so much time and money teaching me how to kill.
I walked into Uche’s office, envelope in hand, and tossed her keys to her as she looked up from her computer. She caught it one-handed.
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop doing that?” she asked.
I sat down and placed the envelope on the table.
“What’s that? Mr Tolu gave that to you?”
“Is that his name?”
“That’s what I heard, along with how you destroyed his driver and two bodyguards in under a minute.”
“They were rude. And they’ll live, it’s not like I broke any bones. Well, except for the one whose nose I broke.” I shrugged. “Tough luck.” I looked at my watch. “I need to get home now. Gimme the intel, and call me Garba.”
I waited for the ten minutes it would take for Garba to get to Uche’s office. Then I left after saying ‘bye’ to Uche. Outside, I walked to Garba who sat in the black, forgettable Honda Accord circa 1993, the one popularly called ‘Honda Bullet’. I got in and he drove off.
Garba is not just a driver, so don’t be fooled; he is a Lieutenant. He’s also efficient and calm under fire, and is one of the best offensive and defensive drivers I have ever seen, not to talk about his counter-surveillance skills. He’s also trained with foreign soldiers as well; he was part of an exchange program between the military forces of France and Nigeria a couple of years back. He went there, and came back a year later leaner, calmer and deadlier. And he’d been with me on a few missions, so I trust him.
“Where to Boss,” he asked as he started the car. He always called me that.
“Home.” I wound up the window as he fired up the A.C. and then I took out the documents in the envelope. Well, not only documents, but photographs as well. Well detailed as well. They showed the interior of Delson Pharma’s Port Harcourt facility, and points breached by the ‘elements’. I looked at them closely.
“New job?” Garba asked.
“Something like that.”
“The one here in PH?”
“Yup.” I started reading through the documents. Just accounts of the problem faced, and job description. I smiled.
“’Cos of the security problems they are having? Why call you? This is not your type of work.”
“On the contrary.”
Garba doubled back and drove the same way he’d come. S.O.P.-Standard Operating Procedure. He took a side street. “What do you mean?”
“It seems Delson is doing something other than producing drugs.”
“What now, bunkering? Arms?”
“Worse, it seems, though I don’t know the full extent of it yet.”
“Need me or any of the others on this?” The ‘Others’, including Garba, were a small group of soldiers that I used whenever I needed to.
“Not at the moment, no.”
I read the accounts and studied the pictures as Garba took me home. It took longer than it normally should, but that was routine. Force of habit; counter-surveillance was a must. That was the reason I’d stayed alive this long. He dropped me off two streets away from mine, and I made my way home.
Inside my apartment, I turned on the tablet pc and after authentication, I searched for the files within and opened them all. They were dossiers on virtually everyone currently working in Delson Pharma at the moment, including character traits, known aliases, possible connections and every little secret each one had. One thing about the Company that I respect is their thoroughness. Trust me, if those guys want to know something about you, they will tear your life apart without your knowledge. I read as much as I could, never overlooking anything. Missions can unravel because of the most trivial of details; the inability to predict the tea-time of a target, or an unknown mistress or friend. I stopped only to make some lunch, and then I continued. By the time I finished, it was night, and I was tired. I turned on the TV; I had a solar panel and an inverter so I never really had to worry about light. The news was on, so I watched it, and I thought for a while. The beginning of a plan began to form in my head, and then I went to bed.
Tomorrow, I would have to check Delson out first-hand.
The next morning, after my normal morning routine, I went through the personnel files again, fixating on possible persons of interest. A few had been highlighted by the CIA, but in this line of business, never trust any intel that you have not verified. I focused on the soldiers hired by Mr Delson. I found out that the armed personnel consisted not only of soldiers, but of Mercenaries as well.
Hmm. What were soldiers doing working alongside mercs?
There were twenty-five mercenaries and seventy-five soldiers. The mercs were not big-time, but they were not small fry either. They were predominantly South African, with three from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and four from the U.S. They looked tough, and they were suspects in quite a number of hits in various parts of the country. I understood this kind of people; they only answered to their Master, and their Master was whoever signed the cheque, in this case, Delson. They were actually a posse of three separate groups. The South Africans were split into two separate groups of ten and eight respectively. The group of ten was headed by James Mark, twenty-seven, a man who’d been a soldier for three years until he’d been dishonourably discharged. Rape. He had a mean streak, and he was big, a little bigger than me. I stand at six-feet-four and I weigh eighty-seven kg. James was six-five, and he weighed ninety-two. Big enough to cause problems for some people.
I could handle him quite easily.
The other South African group was headed by a weather-beaten, older man. Samuel ‘Sam’ Maseko, forty-two. He’d been a soldier longer than me, but he was calmer. Capable, according to his records. He had been discharged from his country’s army five years ago, not dishonourably though, and he’d been a mercenary since. The American and Brazilian group was headed by Rodrigo Max of Brazilian and American descent. Batshit crazy. He made James look like a choir boy, but he was as loyal as a dog to his friends. Wiry, he looked like he’d been wrapped with ropy muscle. And he was strong too.
Apart from them, the other foreigners were career soldiers; Lt. Jane Goodall from Wisconsin: Afro-American and tough-as-nails. She was said to be unsatisfied with her role within the U.S. army, which involved her sitting on her ass all day and handling communication. She’d been shipped down here as a result of that. Lt. Rachel Sullivan was…something else. She was a schemer, and she was tight with Delson as well. Mistress-level tight. No doubt about where her loyalties lay. Right now, she wasn’t in Nigeria; she was off on a trip with Delson, and that was all the report had given me. Then there was Col. Nikolas Pierre, an IED specialist and decent marksman. Cool as a cucumber with deadpan eyes and a poker face. Impressive service history, and some blacked out lines.
But the person that interested me the most was Col. Peter Masterson; he had that skin tone of the mixed race that could make them pass for any nationality for some reason, whether black or white. His file screamed ‘Black Ops!’ at me. I know a doctored record when I see one. I wasn’t even sure if Peter was his real name. Neat and unremarkable service record, perfect home background.
Why send someone with an unremarkable service record to something like this, given the calibre of soldiers here?
But that wasn’t what gave him away, not really. No.
What gave him away was the way he looked at the camera. I knew that look, cos I had it.
The look of a killer.
This was going to be one helluva party.
So far, these were the soldiers that raised my antenna. As for the personnel of Delson Pharma, they were all connected with whatever they were doing.
By eleven in the morning, I strapped on one of my SIG Sauer P226s with an extra clip, knives-I always go out armed- wore a jacket over all this and then I went down to the garage and took out my bike. A black Suzuki V-Strom 650. I wore my helmet, started it, revved, and rode out through the open gates. It was a hot afternoon, but I didn’t need my glasses as my helmet’s visor was tinted. Rumuola was surprisingly not as busy as I’d expected, as was Rumuokwuta. However from then on it was free, as the road between Port Harcourt and the town of Elele, the second biggest town in Rivers State, via Igwurita, was not as busy as the roads in the city. I rode on past the small town of Igwurita, and the houses dwindled once again. A few companies, these nameless, humble-looking money-makers. After a while, before the town of Omagwa which was home to the Port Harcourt International Airport, I saw the big sign-post that announced that Delson Pharma was the pioneer in Pharmaceutical Research. A smiling, Caucasian woman in a black suit pointed the way as if she were pointing the way to Paradise. I rode in through the dirt road, avoiding the puddles. Seventy metres in, and the trees formed some sort of shade, partially blocking out the sun. I passed the little path on the left that led to the only village in these parts. Thirty meters in front of me was the first gate; ash-coloured and at least three meters high. There was a small security outhouse with a window looking out. I slowed as a guard soldier stepped out, AK47 slung nonchalantly across his body and his hand held out.
Time to get to work.
“Yes?” he asked, his voice gruff and his face squeezed. I removed my helmet and glanced at his name and rank. “What do you want?”
I knew the reason he spoke to me in this manner. I didn’t appear a threat, and he had his gun. One thing with a gun though; it gives people a false sense of security. “Sergeant Abubakar.” He was taken aback; he hadn’t expected me to recognize the insignia on his uniform. “I am here to see Dr Pradeep Kumar.” I didn’t expect him to know who I was talking about. In facilities like this, the hired help usually never knew what was going on, and who was who. But they always knew the Man In Charge. “Mr Delson sent me to him. Private.” The key was to act confidently nonchalant, as though it was not my first time. Easy. The dumb ones usually fell for it. The smart ones, not so much.
After a few moments of deliberation, this one fell face-first into the former category. I could see the uncertainty in his eyes; maybe some people had come this way the same way I just did. “Look,” I said, making to put on my helmet, I don’t have much time. Either you let me in, or I go back and before the end of the day, you will be out of this place when I tell your Oga who t was that prevented me from entering. Your choice.” I wore my helmet, started the bike, and Sergeant Abubakar raised his hand to stay me.
“Oga, Oga, wait first. Okay, you can go in.” He turned and waved at his colleague inside the out-house, who signalled for the gate to be opened. I nodded at him and rode in.
He was going to be out of a job soon, as were quite a number of soldiers.
The second gate was about one hundred and fifty hundred meters away from the first gate. The road was tarred, and the land spread out on both sides, populated by trees. Perfect hiding places for any intruders.
Hmm. I would need to revise the security plan of this place.
The second gate loomed even higher than the first one. It must have been built on-site. The security out-house here was much more impressive than the first one; a one-storey building about ninety meters long and a flat roof with an obvious abutment. The armed presence here eclipsed the one at the first gate; I counted four on the roof, and four down. I didn’t know how many would be in the building, but I knew that at least four would be handling the cameras. So what, twelve already? With an estimated six in there as well, roughly eighteen already. Plus the four at the first gate. Twenty-two. Which left about seventy-eight soldiers for the rest of the facility.
Who was the moron that was running the show here?
As I pulled up, a big, muscular, white man dressed in black combat trousers, a grey singlet and an M-16 strode out to meet me. A female soldier followed.
James Mark and Jane Goodall.
Time to play cool.
“Hey you,” James said, “take off your helmet.” His finger was outside the trigger guard of his rifle, and it was pointed to the floor. At least he had some common sense. I could see the distaste in Jane’s face at James’ tone.
Unhurriedly, I took it off, and then looked him square in the eyes.
“Who are you?”
“Is Mr Delson around?” I asked Jane. She carried an M4. These guys were packing some serious hardware; were they expecting a war? Or was this some sort of power-play?
“Hey Mister,” James growled, “I asked you a question.” I saw his hand tighten on the grip of his rifle. Short fuse. Noted.
“No he’s not,” Jane replied with a barely visible smirk.
I kept a straight face. “Who’s in charge here?” I asked no one in particular. I could see the interest in the faces of the others watching us.
“I am.” James was close to tipping by now. “Who are the fuck are you?”
I turned to look at him. Any more now, and he would burst some capillaries. “You are in charge?”
“Yes I am. Now I will ask you one more time.” He gripped his gun tighter, and I noticed the slight shift in its direction; he was pointing it roughly in the direction of my bike. “Who are you, and what is your business here?”
I stared at him for a few minutes. This was more than a security check; this was a contest of wills now. James thought himself the top dog; I wondered who had put him in charge and why. Maybe because of his size or something. I stared at him until I saw something shift in his eyes, and then I smiled. “Never mind. I’ll see you.” I put on my helmet, nodded at Jane, turned and rode away, cool as a cucumber.
I could feel James’ eyes burning holes in my back.