Sade opened her eyes and grunted with the unbearable pain in her head. It was as though her head had been axed opened and her skull littered the floor. Her stomach was having a riot, burning with hunger and the preliminary pangs of her monthly circle. Her face was covered with the dry blood from her head, only one eye was free. With this she saw Dorcas seated by her side. Seeing Dorcas, she remembered: Mark with the lamp… the fight… the shouting at Dorcas for help… Dorcas and the pistol….
Sade shut her eyes. The pain of remembering was greater than them all. She didn’t want to remember. She just wanted to lie here and sleep forever, and die. The only time she had been thus battered was during her first year in the defunct Secret Intelligence Agency. She had been sent as undercover to a cartel that imported and sold illegal arms from Libya. Sade was captured as soon as she came into their hide-out and tortured, but she refused to disclose the agency she worked for. She just wanted to die. After three days, they released her and Sade was declared an unbreakable agent. Her torturers were no criminals. Sade was only being tested!
Today was no test. She would be killed.
‘Water,’ Sade heard Dorcas say. She opened her free eye. Dorcas was pushing a bowl of water to Sade’s face. Lifting up was as hopeless to Sade as switching off an electric lamp by blowing air at it. Dorcas lifted Sade’s head with one hand and offered the water with the other. Sade moaned with pain. Half of the water poured on Sade’s neck and went into her body, wetting her underwear. But the little Sade drunk energised her greatly. She fell back to her painful relaxation.
Sade drifted back to sleep.
# # # #
The field director had just stepped into his office for the day’s work when his phone rang. His face contorted; he hated being bothered so early in the morning. He snapped up the receiver.
It was James, the deputy director.
‘I heard that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency people requested our help for a raid in a drug dealers’ hide-out.’
The field director’s face turned to poison. He hated poke-nosing. ‘You heard all right,’ he said tersely.
‘Have you given them the green light?’
Nosa, the field director grunted, ‘Yes.’
‘That won’t be necessary.’
I beg your pardon.’
‘We are not going to help the NDLEA people,’ James said flatly.
‘And why? We have always helped them!’
‘Nosa, not this time around.’
Nosa was having difficulty keeping his cool. How dare James overrule him? ‘I have ordered the men to the field,’ he said.
‘Order them back.’
‘I am not arguing with you, Nosa. It is an order.’
‘Well, I am not taking orders from you until I hear from the director himself.’
The call was ended.
The deputy director and the field director appeared before the director’s desk. Although James was Nosa’s senior, the director had the final say.
‘You ordered Nosa to turn down an inter-agency operation,’ said the director. One of his eyes was bad.
‘May I know why?’
‘Sade is in the building and the Chinese are trying to use us to catch her,’ mused James.
‘The presidency ordered us to stand down on Sade,’ the director said.
‘Yes, but he didn’t order us to help the Chinese,’ James pointed out.
‘If Sade isn’t captured, the Chinese will blame us,’ Nosa said.
‘We can’t be bothered. Sade is one of our best agents; we shouldn’t have a hand in her capture!’
‘Is Sade in the building?’ the director asked Nosa.
The field director reluctantly nodded.
‘It is not for us to help them catch Sade,’ the director said.
The field director’s heart began to pound.
‘But we must help other agencies of government fight crime whenever we can.’
The field director’s face brightened.
‘James, let Nosa proceed with the operation. We are not going there for Sade; to us, Sade is not in there. If by attacking the building we push Sade into Chinese hands we are sorry; and if she escapes we will not pursue her. Is that okay? ‘
James nodded. A fair compromise but he wasn’t satisfied.
# # # #
‘Wake up, wake up,’ Dorcas was shaking Sade. Sade opened her eyes.
‘What is the matter?’ She heard gunshots and the drones of helicopters. The message hit her bones like cold water in a harmattan morning. Danger was an effective energy-buster, it energized Sade immensely. She shot to her feet and ran to the door.
‘Mark,’ she kicked at the door with her fist. ‘We are being attacked by the Secret Service. These are their helicopters. I can’t mistake the sound. I know their tactics and can help you beat them back, I swear! You just have to trust me.’
Mark opened the door and pointed his gun into her face. His face was rough with violence but it still couldn’t hide the fear in him.
‘What is it?’
Gunshots continued to be fired in the distance.
‘I can help you,’ Sade began earnestly; ‘they are my people. I am one of their best agents…’
Mark was looking at her face designed with blood. She looked mean and could do a lot of damage to their assailants. But….
‘Come on,’ Sade urged. ‘You can’t have someone of my capability here and struggle to fight the Service. Act first, give me a gun, you may cover me with another. I won’t run. You May even keep Dorcas hostage.’
Mark knew she would be useful. She might prove hard to be tamed afterwards but with Dorcas here, Dozie could still be forced to return…
A burst of gunshots sounded and someone’s cry interrupted his thought. Mark shuddered with fear. He turned slightly and Sade acted. She slammed her fist into his heart and snatched the gun from his hand.
‘Hahaha, power has changed hand, Mister.
‘I was going to give you the gun, anyway.’ Mark winced with pain.
‘Step in,’ Sade’s voice roughened. ‘I don’t always bear grudges, but with you it is irresistible.’
‘What do you mean? You want to shoot me?’
‘That won’t be necessary. I just need you out of my way. You see that window? Go to it and jump over.’
‘I will count ten. If I count ten and you are not down, I will shoot you and you will have to crawl to the window. Now go!’
‘Let’s settle this like…’
Mark looked at the window. Jumping down 50 feet wouldn’t kill him, but his spinal cord! He might never walk again…’
Mark rushed to the window.
He climbed the window.
Mark did the sign of the cross then jumped.
Down-stairs, gunshots reported and were returned.
Sade looked at Dorcas terror-stricken face. Stupid beauty. She decided that Dorcas was better off unconscious. She walked to Dorcas who said, ‘That was unfair.’
Sade’s rage surged. ‘Calling the police to arrest me was fair, isn’t it?’
Sade knocked Mark’s gun on Dorcas’ neck and watched her go limp. She placed Dorcas on the floor and dragged her under the bed then let the bed sheet cover the opening. ‘It is for your own good, honey.’
Sade sat down on the bed. Her head was screaming with pain but she didn’t pay attention. She only thought about protecting herself.
# # # #
Mark lay helpless on the ground. It was as though his waist had been separated from his body. Gunshots and the engine of the helicopters were as distance to him as the buzz of a bee in the next room. A bullet on the head would relieve him of this agony, he thought; just one bullet. He shut his eyes.
Suddenly, the whirlwind of a helicopter hit him on the face and its engine drones deafened him. He opened his eyes in time to see a man in Secret Service vest squatting over him.
‘Where is Sade?’ the man’s rough voice demanded.
Mark wanted to be shot so he kept his mouth shut.
‘Answer me before I blow your head off!’
Blow it off, Mark was happy. But on a second thought, Mark felt Sade should share a little from his pain. ‘She is in the second floor window above me.’
‘Why should I believe you?’
‘Because she pushed me.’
Agent Pius couldn’t believe his luck. James had called him aside and had said, ‘Sade was one of us, so we cannot have a hand in her death. I know that Nosa wants her dead but she must live. Let the Chinese catch her themselves. Do whatever you can to save her life. I am counting on you, Pius.’
Pius had nodded but didn’t know how he would save Sade’s life in the midst of six trigger-happy agents. Now he had gotten his break. As the helicopter came to a stop above Sade’s window, he prayed that Sade didn’t come out shooting.
# # # #
Grace was the commander of the operation. Nosa had told her categorically that Sade was their number one target. ‘Fighting the drug ring is the cover; getting Sade is the main deal.’ This was Grace’s sixteen years in the Service with little promotion and recognition; she hated Sade who seemed to get all the accolades. Today, she would get double satisfaction, killing her rival and fetching herself an express promotion.
The attack had gone well. The drug thugs were no match to the experience and surprise of the Secret Service. Now, Grace had her pistol in Bony’s back as Bony led her to Sade’s room.
# # # #
Agent Pius had his gun in his belt and the rope in both hands. He swung himself off the aircraft and landed his feet on the window. He put one hand inside the window and steadied himself. The room had little light, Sade was not in sight. He was somewhat relieved she was nowhere to be seen. He let go of the rope and jumped into the room.
A pistol barrel rammed into his ribs.
‘Drop your gun.’ It was Sade.
‘Listen Sade, I am not here to harm you. I came to protect you, I—’
Sade kicked his dropped gun out of his reach and pointed to the window. ‘Turn around.’
‘I swear, I came to protect you!’
‘I won’t kill you,’ she said; ‘just do yourself the favour of jumping down the window.’
Pius sighed. His career in the Service was finished. He had seen himself sitting on the director’s office someday but Sade would force him into retirement on a wheelchair for the rest of his life! Sullenly, he walked to the window.
As Sade was backing the door she didn’t see Grace and Bony enter the room. ‘Drop your weapon!’ was all she heard.
Sade blamed herself for her magnanimity. If she had just shot Agent Pius as soon as she saw him she wouldn’t have been cornered. Perhaps, it was meant to end like this; she shrugged and dropped her gun on the bed. Agent Pius quickly picked up her gun. She shut her eyes and lifted her hands above her head.
A gunshot reported. Sade waited for the bullet to hit her but heard a cry behind her back. She turned to see Grace clutching at her belly. Agent Pius had shot her using Sade’s gun!
‘I told you I came here to protect you.’ He smiled.
‘Who sent you?’ Sade was stupefied.
Bony made for Grace’s gun but Pius was quick; the bullet hit Bony on the neck.
‘Who are you?’ Sade she wasn’t easily impressed, but Pius sharpness moved her.
‘I am only obeying orders.’ He looked at Sade’s bloodied face. I have played my part. ‘You can now take care of yourself.’
Sade nodded thanks as she collected her gun. ‘I have one more favour to ask you.’ She dragged Dorcas from under the bed. ‘Please take care of her.’
Pius nodded. ‘Who is she?’
‘They held her hostage; just help her.’
‘I will.’ Pius bent before Dorcas unconscious face.
‘Not now,’ Sade said. ‘I need you.’
Pius turned to see Sade pointing her gun to his face. ‘Call down a helicopter and get me in.’
‘That isn’t the arrangement…’
‘I don’t care what it is.’ She placed the gun on his head. ‘Now move!’
# # # #
‘Sade has commandeered a helicopter and Grace is dead.’
The director stopped his car by the road. It was four o’clock and he was on his way home when his phone rang, and the field agent told him this. Sade commandeered a helicopter? Grace dead? ‘How could that happen?’
‘We don’t know the details yet,’ Nosa said. ‘But we need to stop her. The helicopter is heading out of the country.’
‘I will be right back in the office in ten minutes.’
# # # #
Sade had her gun on the pilot’s hip as he guarded the helicopter westward. They were flying over Ogun State and would be in Benin Republic in thirty minutes’ time. Once she got there, she would contact Dozie. It was a shame she had to leave in a hurry, but that wouldn’t stop her from her resolve, she would give Dozie a chance in her life. She hadn’t known how much he meant to her until they walked the mouth of death together so many times in these past few days and came out unscathed. He once said, ‘The gods plan this.’ He could be right.
The sound of the radio earpiece interrupted her thoughts. It was the director’s voice. ‘Agent Luka, stop the helicopter.’
‘Sir… she has a gun on me.’ The pilot sighed.
‘We have called the Air force. The craft will be shot down in minutes,’ the director said.
‘You are bluffing,’ Sade said.
‘Stand down Sade. Come to headquarters and we talk this over.’
‘I am not taking orders from you,’ she said.
‘It’s for your own good.’ Then the director addressed Agent Luka, ‘You have four and half minutes to leave the sky or get shot down!’
Agent Luka had a pregnant wife and a sick mother at home. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t even know what to think. He saw the helicopter descending.
‘What are you doing?’ Sade demanded.
‘I have been ordered to stand down,’ he said.
‘Get the plane back on sky or I will shatter your leg!’
He looked at her. ‘I prefer a bullet than being blown into pieces!’
The helicopter had descended a great deal. ‘I count three and if you don’t move up, you die!’
He didn’t budge. Sade hit him with the gun on the head. She grabbed the control and the two began to struggle for control. The helicopter began to sway.
# # # #
‘The helicopter has crashed,’ Nosa announced. He, the director, the deputy director and the tactical director Mrs Jide were in the control room watching as the arrow that represents the helicopter in the screen bubble. ‘The bluff worked.’
‘Is she dead?’ the director asked.
‘Most likely,’ Mrs Jide who was standing before the screen said.
The deputy director sighed. ‘She was a great agent.’
‘We are not sure she is death yet. Get a squad ready and let them go to the site,’ the director told Nosa.
The phone in the table began to ring. The field director spoke into the receiver then said, ‘I will handle it.’
‘What is it?’ the director asked.
‘A man is here, asking questions about Sade.’
The director frowned. ‘Do we know him?’
‘We should. His name is Dozie.’
# # # #
Sade stepped out of the stream. The night breeze hit her on her wet face. She had just washed her face and head but she could still taste blood around her mouth. She began to climb the hill. The moon was battling to shine through rain clouds but her legs seemed to find their ways up. At the head of the hill, she noticed she was very thirsty. She chided herself; she should have drunk the water before washing her head. She began to walk back to the water.
# # # #
Agent Taiwo and his men were exhausted. Two hours in the bush and no sign of Sade. They had found the crashed helicopter near the stream. They couldn’t find the pilot’s body but not Sade’s. He prayed Sade was dead or better still, in the custody of the Emigration at the borders. But he wouldn’t take chances. It was a pity that the field director had insisted they went with Dozie; a stupid idea for Dozie was now a stumbling block as one of his three men had to stay with Dozie in the van. Taiwo needed all the men he had!
The night was dead silent. The insects and night birds were calm; they seemed to be of aware that death hovered above the forest like a time-bomb, waiting to explode.
# # # #
Sade stood watching the water. She was impatient with thirst. She was hungry as she was yet to take a bite in nearly two days, but she could endure the absence of food. It was only when she craved for water that she knew there were some needs that were unbearable. She didn’t want to drink her blood but she didn’t have the time to waste. By now, the Secret Service and the Chinese or both would be in the jungle. She had just seven bullets in her gun but was confident she would beat them back. She would not run away, she needed their help to leave the country. She would use their vehicle to escape. She prayed they brought helicopters. She would fly.
Unable to wait longer, Sade knelt down before the water. She had waited enough. In Sierra Leone, she had drunk brownish, smelly water in the jungle. This one was better off; it only had particles of her blood inside. Sade scooped enough water in her cupped hands to her mouth. As the water hit her stomach, a sharp pain ravaged her belly, it was as though she had drank a cup of nails. Water didn’t always go well with absence of food, she thought. Again, she dipped her hands into the water then stopped abruptly. She thought she heard a sound; it was actually a noise but as it was important to her safety, she regarded it as sound. Her hand made for the gun in her waist. She turned around and began to make for the hill on her kneels. She hated unapproved sounds and would go up and check it.
As Sade got to the end of the hill, she lifted her gun, then showed her head. A gun exploded twice. Sade fell and rolled downhill into the water.
# # # #
‘I think I killed her,’ the agent who had just fired said excitedly to the other. They were hiding behind a tree.
‘Let’s confirm first. Go check her.’
The other shook his head. ‘You go check.’
‘You said you killed her, so why are of afraid of checking?’
‘I did the shooting, you should do the checking.’
The other sighed. Unfortunately, they were of the same rank so none could order the other. ‘Any idiot with gun could shoot.’
‘Yeah, but it takes an idiot with guts to shoot Sade.’
The other contacted Agent Taiwo with his two-way radio. ‘Sir, I think the target is dead.’
‘What do you mean by ‘‘I think’’?’ Taiwo bellowed in the radio.
‘Sir, we shot at her but we do not want to appear in the open to confirm that. She could have set a trap.’
‘I heard the shooting,’ their leader said; ‘I will be there right away. Do nothing till I come.’
Greatly relieved, the agent declared, ‘Yes, sir.’
# # # #
Sade cursed herself for having made a stupid move. The bullets had missed her head by whiskers! Now she would wait for them here, lying on the water with her gun thrust forward. She waited for a couple of minutes. They wouldn’t come, she told herself. I will have to go to them, she decided. She stood up and began to walk on the rocky beds of the water. She would take a detour, come a long way from her present position and get the men from behind. She hadn’t gone ten metres when she heard the fall of loosed sand into the stream from the path she had come. They were here. She turned and quickly climbed out of the water into the rocks on the opposite bank. A gunshot cracked and a bullet hit the rock that shielded her.
Sade waited then shot a determined bullet at the entry-way.
‘Sade, this is Agent Taiwo. I have orders to take you in. You are trapped so I advise you give yourself up.’
‘Go to hell,’ Sade said and followed it up with a shot.
Taiwo and his men responded with three simultaneous bullets.
They are three in number, Sade told herself. Aloud she said, ‘Go back to Headquarters; I don’t want to hurt you guys.’ Sade was running her eyes for a way to circle around and get a clear shot. She knew she was wasting bullets, but the mountainous rock behind her was insurmountable!
‘We are going nowhere Sade; we want you.’ Taiwo sent a leg into the water; he was going for her. As the water swallowed his shoe, an idea hit him. Dozie! He cursed himself for not having thought of him all this while. He would use Dozie to catch Sade. The field director was a mile ahead of him in sense. Taiwo lifted his leg from the water. ‘Go up and bring the man here,’ he told one of the two men besides him.
‘Sade, I have something to show you,’ Taiwo called.
‘It’s okay; when I shoot you, I will see it.’ She sat back, her gun ready to fire. She was sure one of them would come for her. So she waited. Time crawled. She saw no one. She took the decision; she would go get them. As a leg entered the water, Sade heard Taiwo say, ‘Tell your girlfriend to come out or I would shoot you!’ Sade withdrew her leg and listened.
Dozie kept his mouth shut. Taiwo knocked him on the head with his gun. ‘Talk!’
Dozie moaned. ‘Sade,’ he called. ‘I love you, don’t give yourself up, they will kill you. Please take good care of my sis—’
Taiwo knocked Dozie on the head, interrupting him. ‘Sade, you heard your boyfriend? Now you have ten seconds to show yourself with your hands on your head. Show yourself or your man dies. If I count ten and you are not here, I will shoot him and his blood will be on your head. And we will still catch you, Sade. Make no mistake about that! It may take time but you are trapped, so we shall!’
Sade didn’t reply.
‘Sade, come out now!’ He waited, nothing happened, so he placed the barrel of his pistol on Dozie’s head and began to count. ‘One!… two!… three!… four!… five!…’
The minute hand of the clock joined the hour hand at twelve. The end of Day Five.
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