Francis Is Alive (-11-)

Right after the masked man’s video hit the internet, a lot of phone calls erupted across countries and agencies, calling through to the National Intelligence Agency of Nigeria and the Aso Rock for verifications and clarifications. Australian ASIS, Brazilian ABIN, Service Canadien du Renseignement de Sécurité, Chinese MSS, Cuban Dirección de Inteligencia, Egyptian Gihaz al-Mukhabarat al-Amma, French Direction générale de la sécurité exterieure, German Bundesnachrichtendienst, Israeli Mossad, Russian FSB, UAE State Security and so on. Whoever this Francis Whyte was, the Nigerian government found out, he was quite a popular criminal.

“My name is Francis Whyte,” he had said in the video, “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.”

John Penn was perturbed as he watched the video. President Imoukhuede was no more speaking directly to him, he never trusted him from the beginning anyway, and the directive he had feared mostly had come an hour ago, to release Michael Livingstone and all persons arrested with him right away. He hadn’t released them. He was waiting for the results of the DNA analysis.

“President David Imoukhuede,” Francis continued to say. “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.”

John exhaled heavily. He had suspected Michael Livingstone was not Francis Whyte but he just couldn’t let him go like that. Even after the real Francis’s video, he wouldn’t obey a direct order unless he saw the DNA results.

It wasn’t long after that the awaited call came from the laboratory, the DNA did not match with Francis’s. They weren’t the same person.

He went to the interrogation room disappointingly and unshackled Michael.

“You’ve been found innocent Mr. Michael Livingstone. You have all rights to protest this treatment legally but I would advise that you let go, we do what we do for the sake of national security, to protect people like you. You’ll be taken back to Lagos immediately. Your escorts are waiting outside.”

“I need to see Olawunmi right now. Where’s she?”

“She’ll be waiting for you back at home.”

“Okay.”

“Wait, Mr. Livingstone, if you have anything you’d like to tell me, anytime, this is my card, a call to it from any part of the world is always without network charges.”

Michael collected it, looked at it like it was an object from an alien planet, shrugged and finally pocketed it. He followed the soldiers beckoning him to move.

That day was a busy day for bloggers across the world. You would be bothered about how these bloggers get their information; matters that are meant to be hush-hush are found discussed on their blogs no sooner than they are planned.

Michael did not utter any word in response to questions and pacifications. He was tortured for what he knew nothing about. He learnt that Olawunmi and Majeed had been taken back home and he was going to be taken there too, so he laid his hands atop the other in patience, seeing his friends was the only thing that mattered to him.

By the time they took the final turn to their street three and a half hours later, it was already dark. He sat up on the seat, right hand on the door; eyes ahead; tears in his eyes. The jeep itself hardly stopped when two doors flung open at once, the door to his girlfriend’s house and to the Nwanyanwus; they must have been sitting on keen edges, expecting him.

There were policemen hanging around but all those were invisible to Michael then. As Papa Bella and Mama Bella appeared with Bella in-between them, Olawunmi and Majeed together with Chiny and Lucky also emerged from Majeed’s house. Michael’s speed at alighting from the vehicle was marvelous too, and Olawunmi had run into his hands like a dog excited at its owner’s arrival, jumping at him so solidly she nearly sent him falling on his back. As they hugged and assessed each other, Michael sighing at the realization that they had not blinded or done anything horrible to her as John Penn had described, Majeed appeared at the door, walking on props.

“They said they had blinded you!” Michael cried.

“No, they didn’t touch me,” Olawunmi also cried.

“Liars! They said they cut your fingers.”

“They dare not touch me! What did they say you did?”

“I didn’t do anything. They mistook me for some other person who they probably have finally found, after they had illegally tortured me. I am not so letting this go! I have my rights.”

He looked at Majeed who was just standing there at the porch.

“Oh my God!” he muttered. “How’s your leg?”

“It didn’t touch anything big.” He shrugged. “I’ll be fine.” That must have been what he was told.

Michael looked at Chiny then. She was standing adjacent to Majeed, and before they knew it, they were crowded upon by reporters. The soldiers held them back of course but as everyone; Papa and Mama Bella, Chiny, Lucky, Olawunmi and Majeed hurried back into Majeed’s house to continue the conventional sympathizing, Michael stayed to address the reporters.

They asked a lot of questions, none of which he particularly faced. He instead said, “My name is Michael, Michael Livingstone, an American businessman. I had only come to Nigeria to visit my girlfriend, Olawunmi but I got more than I bargained for from the hands of the so called CIA who tied me to a chair and tortured me like a criminal.”

He picked out the card that John Penn had given him and looked at it.

“The man who tortured me, John… Penn, some director at the CIA, after realizing I’m not the Francis Whyte he’s looking for had released me with a sorry, a glass of champagne and this card. I wonder what he took me for. He advised me to forget about it. Forget about the inhuman treatment, can you imagine? Anyway, my lawyer is on his way to Nigeria and I’m leaving with him. I’m suing them. This is what they do to countless number of people across the world, intimidating, kidnapping and probably murdering those who attempt to expose them, but I’m not gonna let this go unquestioned, they are gonna answer for this. They have no right to subject any human being to such animalistic exploitation as the one I’ve been put through under any circumstance. Apology doesn’t solve this. I have my rights. I’m not an animal.”

He could’ve said more but the cough which sporadically disturbed him wouldn’t let him, and instead of answering a hoard of questions that greeted his speech, he simply turned around and sauntered inside to join his friends.

They all watched NTA together that night, both neighbors in one flat, and their houses were quite popular then; Michael, Olawunmi and Majeed were all they were talking about wherever they talk about this video one Francis Whyte had uploaded on the internet, the man whom Mr. Livingstone was mistaken for. Bade Adebanjo’s name however, was more popular than theirs. What does the psychopath want with him? Who were those whose brains were scattered all over the place? Such were the trending questions.

Director John Penn was ordered back to the United States, the Nigerian Government must have alleged the United States of plotting to kill its President. The Press Secretary delivered a speech that night on behalf of the President, assuring the citizens that there was nothing to be afraid of as the NIA in collaboration with the SSS and the Nigerian Police have had the situation under control.

This incident nonetheless, as dire as it was, had created intimacy between Chiny and Majeed and that was when Majeed applied Lucky’s prescriptions on winning Chiny’s heart and it was working, Chiny seemed to have taken into him.

The second day, Michael’s lawyer arrived and the duo returned together the third day. Michael said he would either visit again soon or have Olawunmi flown to him in the US. Majeed wouldn’t tell Olawunmi he doesn’t love her again, if he did, he realized, Michael could cease to be one of his clients, and since he was even his biggest, it was better to keep Olawunmi close in order to keep him close too. Lucky couldn’t talk about Olawunmi at that time, considering the seriousness of what had happened, but anytime Majeed’s eyes met with his, the reminder was always on his face; you dare not forget to deliver your own end!

*          *          *

Jessica loved to read Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels. She was reading one titled Blow Fly when the shit hit the fan.

Chloe was always crying at night, Jessica suspected perhaps like Gabriel, she despised winter. Since Gabriel left, the house had seemed like a graveyard and Jessica hated it. In the past years, she hardly saw Gabriel. He could go away for a whole year; they weren’t married then. According to Gabriel, he worked for the government and his job nature wouldn’t applaud being emotionally engaged with an opposite sex, it would be said of him that he was compromised and anything could consequently happen. So, the MI6 was his life and Jessica was his secret for a long time until he showed up one day and proposed marriage to Jessica.

There was a big bandage around his head then, and he said he was only two weeks out of surgery. Jessica wouldn’t be told how that had come to be but whatever it was, it changed Gabriel, even gave him a ridiculous sense of humour. After the MI6, they got married but it was never over, Madam Hobbs, Gabriel’s mother had begun her own problems, sending Gabriel on treacherous adventures like the MI6 he had retired from. Jessica nearly left Germany at some point but he came back while she was parking and stopped her.

He wasn’t a usual husband. He lived with paranoia, believing that everybody’s life was always in danger. And so came the rigging of doors with explosives like they were at war. Jessica argued it was inappropriate to rig a marital home with explosives, so he stopped that and retreated into minefields outside the house.

“What if I got drunk and wander there?” Jessica had argued again.

Then came the pregnancy, Madam Hobbs came to celebrate with them, the only time she had ever stepped into their house. So, Gabriel withdrew from his military routines and installed an alarm system instead. He was going to become a father. And peacefully they had lived until the recent call about one Francis Whyte, the name that Gabriel was once obsessed with until the Francis was said to have finally been put down. He was gone again now, to a country in West Africa, Nigeria? He wouldn’t even reply her emails.

Chloe wouldn’t sleep, Jessica had learnt a lot of lullabies both in German and English on the internet because of her but they weren’t working. Thankfully though, she was finally asleep and Jessica was reading the Scarpetta novel, frowning through the pages, yawning occasionally and stroking her forehead.

There was a sound in the attic, like something falling.

When was the last time anyone ever stepped in that attic even when Gabriel was home? Perhaps a cat was in there? She stilled for a while, waiting for another sound, but, nothing. So she continued reading her novel.

‘You got a safe place for me to stay down there? Scarpetta asks him over the phone inside her single room at the Melrose Hotel at 63rd and Lexington…’

She had migraine. Her eyes ached. Chloe didn’t allow her a single minute of sleep all through the night.

She heard the roof heaved again and that could’ve only meant one thing, either Gabriel was attempting to make a surprising entry or someone was spying on them, or… watching over them? Or as Gabriel had always feared, come to… She rose slowly, dropping the book on the couch gently, somebody was in the attic and he just tripped over something.

Loaded automatics were stashed everywhere in the house and she knew how to use them. How many times had she and Gabriel gone plinking? She couldn’t even count it. An automatic 9millimeter was in her hand at once, and she glanced briefly at Chloe’s cradle before she progressed stealthily to the staircase leading to the attic. Whoever that was, she got her quite spooked.

Ear to the door then, she listened to more signs of movement, nothing. The attic was dark, that was probably why whoever was in there had tripped over something. If she would burst into the room, she would have to switch on the light within the second she opened the door or else she could get shot. She wouldn’t risk it, and that was when Chloe started crying again.

She hurried down the steps and back in the living room but to find someone bending over the cradle. It wasn’t Gabriel. He was backing Jessica but she knew it wasn’t her husband, so, she pointed the 9millimeter at him in shaky hands.

“Step away from the cradle slowly, or else…”

The stranger turned to her, revealing a cigarette discolored and an alcohol-soaked set of badly arranged teeth. “Or else what?” he snickered. “Look around you!”

Jessica looked behind her; two thin men were sitting on her couch then, one assessing the novel she was reading like he had never seen one before. And then the door into the attic opened, another thin but tall man descended the steps, also smiling.

“I give it to you,” he said in British accent. “This house is quite warm. One can’t afford to visit it and leave without a round… or two? …of sex.”

Jessica pointed the gun at him and when the man by the cradle took a step closer, she switched to him, back and forth she wheeled and these men laughed derisively.

“You can’t shoot two of us before you’ll get your own,” said the man with the accent. “And you’ll get us so angry we’ll kill your baby after killing you. But if you played nice, we’re just four, shouldn’t be much for you? Sex and a little fondling of breast is all we ask for? After that, we might kill you as we’re paid to do but I’m personally promising you, I’ll raise your baby as my very own. He’ll grow up to be a good gun, I assure ya.”

“My baby is a girl, not boy,” muttered Jessica as she fired a shot which dug through the man’s forehead, splattering blood all over the steps.

Jessica fell on her back the same time the men responded in a brief but fatal shooting.

The shot that the man by the cradle aimed at Jessica got the man who was assessing the Scarpetta novel on the chest, his own bullet scraping the man by the cradle in the neck. And before they could realize what was happening, Jessica had got the two of them down, fired additional shots at their dead bodies to be sure they were dead. She wasn’t just any housewife, she was an ex spy’s wife, one of the world best men with guns. And besides, the 9millimeter was outstanding, it had zero recoil.

She burst into tears as she ran to get Chloe. Chloe was fine, only crying as usual. She grabbed her cell phone at once. Calling Gabriel would be a distraction for him if the call went though at all, so she called Madam Hobbs instead.

“Four men just attacked me,” she cried. “They were going to—they said they were paid to kill me. No—no—no, I killed them. They’re dead. Can you come to pick me please? I don’t know how many of them are still out there. I’m fucking freaking out in here. No—yes, I can do that, ye—yes, I can do that.”

After she ended the call, she switched off the lights, doused the candles and miraculously, Chloe was asleep again. She pulled the cradle into their bedroom, grabbed an AK47 rifle from under the bed, loaded it and took a position at a dark corner, waiting for any funny entry that would provoke a taste of her fierceness. It was a cold winter morning.

When Madam Hobbs’ men came, she nearly shot them, but she didn’t. They took her away, along with her 9millimeter which she wouldn’t drop.

Madam Hobbs herself was waiting at the gates when they got to her mansion, the old woman cared about retaining her grandmother title more than Jessica would ever realize. Some other men were sent to go and clean the house and bring the dead bodies over for assessment; they had to know who had sent them.

When Jessica was sat in Madam Hobbs’ parlour, served hot tea, her baby held to her chest, Madam Hobbs looked at her proudly as she listened to the tale of how she had singlehandedly taken out four men without missing a shot.

When she was through, Madam Hobbs assured her she had no more reason to be frightened as she was safe now. But she wasn’t listening to her; a video being repeatedly played on the large screen to her left had distracted her.

“That’s Francis Whyte. He’s still at large,” Madam Hobbs told her.

“No, increase the volume, let me hear the voice,” commanded Jessica and one of the guards did as she wanted on Madam Hobbs’ nodding.

They played the video from the beginning, the masked man talking, showing his butts to the camera.

“Madam Hobbs?” Jessica called.

“What?”

“Who did you say this is?”

“Francis Whyte. Why?”

“Are you kidding me now? You don’t recognize your own son again, is that it? This is Gabriel!”

“Play it again!” wailed Madam Hobbs.

They did and Madam Hobbs moved closer to the screen as if she was going to climb into it.

“Stupid boy!” she finally exclaimed. “How did I not know?”

“Why is he doing this?”

“You were attacked because of this video, Jess. They know he’s not Francis Whyte. They know he’s Gabriel Hobbs. That’s why they’ve attacked you. I’m so stupid! Come here!” whined Madam Hobbs and she hugged Jessica with the baby gently pressed in-between them.

“He’s not replying my emails or my calls,” cried Jessica.

“Don’t worry, he’s fine. I spoke with him not long ago. Come. Come and speak with him too. But wait, you do understand we can’t tell him any of this yet, don’t you? We’ll just tell him we know he’s the one in the video and others might have known too, that he should be careful, huh?”

“But if he knows I’m with you, he’ll suspect something.”

“We can’t let him suspect, it’ll distract him. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him I forced you over. I couldn’t risk leaving you alone over there, does that sound real enough?”

Jessica wanted to say Gabriel wouldn’t believe she could be that nice to care about someone’s safety but she held it. “Okay, real enough.” she said.

“Good, follow me, you’ll just tell him you’re here and you miss him, that’s all.”

“Okay.”

Jessica gazed at Madam Hobbs lastingly. She hated her and she knew that Madam Hobbs knew that she did, she would always hate her until she stops bringing danger into her marriage. She would kill her if Gabriel died because of her pesky missions, Madam Hobbs was their devil. She hoped she knew that.

…to be continued ON SUNDAY!

-Lord eBay (and his action series, 2017)

Follow/Contact Lord eBay on: Twitter; Instagram; Facebook; Email

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