At the military base in Ojoo-Ibadan, Michael was cuffed hands back to a chair in an interrogation room, alone with Director John Penn at the opposite end of the table. Behind a mirror in there, some top security personnel stood and watched. Director John Penn was the one who knew who he was; he was the one who came down to the country to alert them, he was the one to interrogate him as well.
“I don’t know how many times I have to say this but I am not the man you’re looking for. The man you’re looking for has his ID, I have mine. I’m an American, a tax paying one with every proof needed to justify that you’re making a grave mistake here and I’m not gonna take this easy with you, legally, afterwards. This is abduction!”
“The young man and the girl hosting you,” John asked him. “Do they know who you are? How dangerous you are? What you do for a living? Or are they just your accomplices and should be charged with felony too?”
“You dare not touch my friends! You can talk whatever gibberish you want but you will not touch my friends! You’re in so much trouble I assure you. We’ll revisit all this in a court of law.”
“So many bounty hunters have flown down here because of you and all you could say is this, Francis? Or… what is it you call yourself now, Michael?”
“I want to call my lawyer. I’m not uttering any more words until he gets here. I have my rights.”
“You’re not touching a phone again, ever, Francis, if you don’t cooperate. We’ve prepared the documents, Francis. You tell us why you’re in Nigeria, what business you have with the man, Bade Adebanjo, plus of course, what you took from the US government four years ago, who hired you to take it, you’ll pass a few years in prison, kept away from anything or anyone threatening, and after that, you might even be indulged as much as getting assignments from us, a government operative. What could be greater in this world?”
He broke down in tears. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not the Francis you think I am. I’m saying the fucking truth.”
“That leaves us with only one option, Francis. We’ll get the words we want to hear from you in the most brutal way possible. And I want you to know, right now, your friends, Majeed and Olawunmi are being interrogated as we speak, in a way you’d not like to know, by a man whose name you’d not like to hear. I heard he has carved one of the girl’s eyes out with pliers, how macabre! I hope he’s stopped soon, he had only cut three of her fingers but he could cut more. The boy has got worse, just because of you, because you brought them here and they’re not being cooperative too, just like you.”
“I swear to God,” Michael cried bitterly. “I’m not the Francis you’re looking for. These people are my—” the cries became loud and his nose was running now. “These people know no Francis either. She’s my girlfriend. I came here because of her. You’re so gonna regret this I swear. You blinded my girlfriend?”
Director Penn shifted the chair backward as he rose, index finger of his right tapping on the table. Too many police officers and soldiers had been mobilized to this military facility to keep this Francis held. He was said to have escaped police cells seven times, police vehicles thirteen times and police arrest countless number of times before they even identified him as the popular Francis Whyte. The first time he was caught and taken to the world most protected prison, Francis was said to have escaped it fifteen minutes after he got there. The problem they had about him been that, all his pictures they had taken, at different locations, were not the same. He was bald in some pictures; in others, he wasn’t. He had dark hair in some pictures, in others, he was blonde. He was Mongoloid in some pictures; in others, he was Caucasian. The only thing that had always connected these different people was the DNA test; it had always come out the same.
So, John was confused, he himself wouldn’t be sure this man was Francis Whyte. Facial recognition of the picture they got from the airport confirmed it was him but the way he had coordinated himself so far was not Francis-like. They got his blood sample immediately after they got him; imagine the great Francis Whyte running like a scared baby across the street into the rescuing hands of military chasers. He could’ve been shot; he could’ve died, and the real Francis wouldn’t do that, wouldn’t risk that, ever. So, as John exhaled heavily and looked at Michael thoughtfully, he shook his head, the real Francis was either truly dead and not in Nigeria and they had unnecessarily sounded a false alarm or he was using this man as decoy.
The office of the Secretary of State had phoned him minutes ago for update and he had told them to hold on until he had confirmations; it was about time he hanged himself because he had no authentic information yet and they were calling again. All was left was to wait for the results of the DNA analysis they had sent Michael’s blood sample to the military laboratory to run. They had no need to worry about an escape, the military base was well protected; no foreign bounty hunter or criminal associate would dare come in.
* * *
The masked man, bullet dodger sat opposite Bade whose face was made scaly by the blood which has dried on it now.
“What do they want with you?” he asked.
Bade looked at his lips sharply, shaking to his bone marrows. His fingers danced in reflex, his lips hung slightly apart as if the lower one was too heavy to be held in place, and his teeth, they clattered. His hands were cuffed to a table, upon which fragments of human brains still lay, the same brains, still on the wall, in his hair, on his hands, on the floor, everywhere. He was running mad quietly.
This is what happened ten minutes ago. This hideout was somewhere between Ota and Abeokuta in Ogun State and whoever killed Taiwo and abducted Bade had taken Bade to that location. Bade didn’t just vanish; he was kidnapped and the masked man had followed them stealthily. The masked man knew he would be kidnapped; he had been watching him and all others who were also watching him. And he had bugged all the dresses in his closet before Bade returned from Ibadan. So, when his guesses finally bloomed, he simply followed.
The masked man was only identified as the masked man, what he wanted, who he was, why he was in Nigeria and who he was working for, nobody knew yet. His first appearance was ambushing the League’s assassins on the road of Lekki Peninsula and causing the jeep to overturn. Some bold youths behind slightly-opened windows had recorded his acrobatic bullet dodging and combat acumen and had posted it on YouTube. In fact, the TV stations had got these videos from YouTube, subsequently played for their viewers. A lot of conspiracy theories came up, a lot of speculations and it had become so popular that countries were talking about it immediately. The Lekki Donnie Yen; that was what they called him.
Bade’s abductors weren’t his friends; they tortured him, asking him about one Elizabeth Akinyoyenu, where she lived, and where the tube was. They showed him the whole album and he saw himself in strange places, in strange dresses with people he had never met before. He was more than astonished; someone who looked the same like him, same scar above the eye and that girl, he had seen her before, he just wouldn’t know where. Many questions rose in him and when they interrogated him, asking questions, all he had were other questions instead of answers.
“Who are these people? Why do I feel like I know that lady? Eighty-seven years ago? Why does that man look like me and has my scar?”
They only beat him more, one of his eyes totally bloodshot.
So while they interrogated him for answers he did not have, their alarm was tripped. An intruder had entered the property. So they forayed out in search and they did catch a man who begged to be handled gently, that his car broke down on the thruway and he was merely looking for some neighboring house to help him out. That part of the road was flanked at both sides by bushes, so they suspected if anyone should go into that bush, allegedly in search of some miraculous house, he had some dangerous business and mustn’t be taken lightly, especially if he was a white man. So they cuffed him hands back and took him to the interrogating room. They were sure he must have attempted to come to Bade’s rescue but was outsmarted. After they sat him opposite Bade, asking Bade to tell them who the man was, the innocent mathematician denied acquaintance and what happened after then was too fast to describe.
The man suddenly jumped onto the chair and although his hands were cuffed to the back, how they came to the front would never be explainable and there were six men in that room whom he killed in approximately four seconds with their own machine guns. There were other men outside and one could hear their troubled shouts and movements towards the house. What Bade saw was that the man went outside, gunshots were fired and five minutes later, he returned inside alone with a mask on his face.
He stood at the door for a while, looking at Bade. Then he came in with a handkerchief in hand, wiping stains of blood off his hands. Bade’s blood was rushing to his face then; the man was going to kill him too.
“What do they want with you?” he had asked silently like he was talking to himself and wasn’t expecting Bade’s response, and then he sat opposite of him again, looking at the album.
Blood had stained the page of the album turned open. The diary was luckily closed but blood had soaked a bit into it, so the masked man wiped both diary and album with his handkerchief and blew air at the diary for a minute before he finally dropped the handkerchief on the floor. He glanced through the album slowly, not even behaving as if Bade was still in front of him, and Bade himself was dreadfully dead silent. All reasons to be quiet, he had seen that man killed armed men in seconds even with handcuffs on.
When he got to the end of the diary, he brought out a picture of Bade; it was one of the pictures from Bade’s room at home and Bade saw it but he dared not utter a word. The man placed the picture beside one of the lookalike’s in the album and sighed at the resemblance, and then he looked at the year written on the album again, 1938. He looked up at Bade briefly, checked his wristwatch, tapped on his phone for about a minute, then picked the diary up, read the slightly stained first page and closed the diary. Then he finally sat back and just watched Bade; Bade also gazed at him in quivering lips and gnashing teeth.
“Be calm,” he suddenly spoke soothingly. “I’m not going to kill you.”
Silence… The teeth gnashing went on.
“Mr. Bade Adebanjo,” none of them ever got the pronunciation right. “Be calm now, I’m a friend, I came to save you. I work for the British government, my name is… I’m sorry, I can’t tell you my name yet. Hope you don’t mind?”
“It’s all right. You’re afraid. But you’re going to have to summon the courage to answer some questions though. I’ll need you to answer me honestly and quickly. After that, you’ll come with me. I’ll keep you at a safe place till I travel and take you with me. The British government is more than willing to protect you. Do you understand?”
Bade nodded then and relaxed a bit, his uneasiness lessening.
“Who are these men in this album to you?”
“Mr. Adebanjo, can I call you Bade? Talk to me! In three hours, this place will be flooded with other armed men who also want to abduct you and interrogate you, and I’m not leaving this place with you unless you cooperate. If you don’t, I’ll leave you here for them to find, even though I am instructed to—”
“I don’t know them?” muttered Bade shakily. “I never saw them before? That album is eighty-seven years old, how can I know them?”
“But you’re in this picture, Bade. Right here, this is you. See?”
He turned the album to him.
“I don’t understand why I look like that man. I don’t… A postman came to deliver this album and diary to me. He was shot before he came and he died right at my doorstep. I never saw the contents of the package until they brought me here. I have questions myself… in fact… I’m the one who has most questions, because I’m the one who looks like someone in an album, not anybody else.”
The man smiled then, seemed contented Bade was finally talking.
“But… why do you think this package is sent to you?”
“I swear to God, I don’t know, b—but I, I wish to know. And that girl in it, that young lady in the album, I think I know her but I’m not sure.”
The masked man straightened up on the chair then.
“You know her? Where?”
“I don’t know. It’s like a déjà vu, no, not even that, I really don’t know why. It seems like I know her the way I know my parents, my friends, my neighbours yet I can’t explain why.”
“You’re a reincarnate,” the masked man whispered. “That girl was probably your wife in the previous life. That family you married from had something some powerful men now want, and they think you can find the thing for them. That’s why they sent you all these, to trigger your memories of previous life, but I think… I think some other powerful men want to hijack you from them, and this has caused the bloodshed. Do I make any sense?”
“I’m not a reincarnate. There’s no such thing as that.”
“If you think you didn’t have a past life, how come you look exactly like a man who had probably died?”
“They were talking about some place and a tube. It’s all bullshit.”
“Yes, it’s all bullshit Bade, but that bullshit is a serious bullshit. Powerful people want something badly and you’re their locator machine now and they’re fighting over you like a piece of cake. You’re important to them. That’s why you’ve been treated this nicely so far.”
“They didn’t treat me nicely. They’ve beaten me mercilessly.”
“Mercilessly…” the masked man chuckled. “No, they didn’t. If I was the one who… let’s just say so far, they’ve still managed to keep you in good shape.”
“What do they want me to find?”
“You can’t ask me that. You talked about some place and some tube, didn’t you? That’s what they want, the tube and the place where it is. Whatever they want with that, they’ll never stop looking for you until you do their bidding.”
“But they should’ve just asked me nicely. I would be willing to help.”
“Well, they wouldn’t because they probably have some other information about you that only they know, and maybe that information is intimidating.”
“Who are you? What… do you also want?”
“I thought I told you who I am. I’m a British Intelligence agent. I’m sent to keep you from their reach.”
“But why would the British Intelligence Agency want to protect me because of some… tube? How did they know me?”
“Some tube? Well, about how they knew you, they didn’t know you. They know that man in the album, and for now, you’re that man until further truths are revealed.”
“Why are you wearing a mask?”
“About that,” he smiled. “I’m happy you asked. It assures me you’re still in good psychological shape. I wear a mask because I don’t want people to see my face, or why would I if I don’t want my face seen? Is that difficult to know without asking?”
“Why don’t you want people to see your face?”
“Well, let’s just say I’m a shy person. When people see my face, I kill them. Apart from those I work for, you’re the only one who has seen my face and still lives. You saw my face the other time when they brought me in, didn’t you?”
Bade nodded hesitantly, squirming awkwardly.
“Oh, sorry, let me undo the cuffs for you, huh… oh, not yet, let me…”
He brought out his phone and used a gun to stand it on the table.
“Bade, I want to do something now,” he said. “Please just watch me, say nothing and don’t be petrified by whatever I say. It’s only a gimmick to get you salvaged, do you understand?”
So he started recording and took his chair to Bade’s side. He picked another gun from the ground and sat beside Bade to the audience of the working camera.
“I hate these guns,” he said. “They tear whatever their bullets touch apart. See someone’s brain all over the table!”
He tapped pieces of shattered brains with his finger.
“Forgive my bad manners, let me introduce myself, my name is Francis Whyte and I am the one who took Mr. Bade Adebanjo here. There’s no point in looking for him, you can’t find him. You know you can’t. This is Francis speaking and you know I mean whatever I say. To all of you bounty hunters and assassins in Nigeria because of me, government dogs, if you love yourself and value your lives, just return to your countries and forget about me, because if you come after me, I will kill you and you know I can, and I will, I swear on my gunpowder. I’m not gonna kill this man. I just want him to assist me with some things, that’s all. President David Imoukhuede, don’t trust the Americans, they’re not here to catch me. They’re here to kill you because you’re not on their side in this tense atmosphere of political uncertainties. I have a gift for them.”
He pushed the chair back, undid his belt, turned his back to the camera and pulled down his trousers. And on his buttocks two words were visible, written probably with a marker.
He pulled up his trousers and went to the phone to end the recording.
“Do they have a shower or something in this house?” he asked Bade.
Bade’s lips rather opened slightly to ask, “You are Francis Whyte?”
“Yes, why? You heard about me before?”
“These guys,” he lowered his head to signify he was referring to the men who were then bodies on the ground, “they kept talking about Francis Whyte.”
“What were they saying about me?”
“I didn’t pay attention. I can’t really say.”
“It’s all right. Is there a bathroom here?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Another thing, how were you taken from the Police Station?”
“A police officer came to me and told me we must leave the station immediately because it was under attack. So I followed him. A box was under his arm, containing those…” he pointed at the album and the diary, “there was a SUV and we entered into it together, that was where I met these men.”
“Okay, how did the man who took you to them look like? Did you catch a name?”
“He was a police officer… he was in a police uniform, so I thought he was a police officer.”
“He could be. Did you catch a name?”
He brought out his phone again and showed him pictures. He shook his head at them until the fourth one.
“That’s him! That’s him! He told me the station was under attack and he had to take me away!”
“Oh, that’s strange, Inspector Titus?” He put the phone back in his pocket. “Let’s get you washed for now. You’ll tell me everything in the car, from the day you received the package till today, can you?”
“No problem, I can.”
“Let’s undo the restraints now. Raise your hands. You’re in good hands now,” assured the masked man as he undid the handcuff. He seemed quite polite. A polite killer!
…to be continued ON SUNDAY!
-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)
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