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⇐Previously On Sisera

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Olai thought the SSS headquarters was too quiet for a place like it, this fine day.

An air conditioner buzzed from somewhere in the building. There were muted conversations. And that was it.

Only the sound of a stiletto began from somewhere outside the door, coming closer with each step. One. Two. Three. Four.

It stopped just outside the office door.

Hesitation? Olai knew there was a glass in the door, and whoever that was could see him. He kept his head bowed though.

The footsteps resumed, but this time, they faded away with each one, as if in the same direction from which they had come. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. And on and on.

Soon, the room went back to its previous silence.

Olai sat on a wooden chair in a corner, a desk with nothing on top of it before him, in a room lit by two energy-saving light bulbs in the ceiling.

The room was small enough to get anyone claustrophobic. Its walls were plain white.

Built into the wall on Olai’s right was a cupboard, its wooden cover flushed to the wall. Like a wall cupboard of some sort.

The room had only one door to Olai’s left, leading in and out. The table took up more than a third of the small room. There was an empty chair – identical to the one Olai sat on – on the other side across the table from Olai.

The ache in his head was slight now, but it persisted. His legs felt heavy, and the clothes – the same ones the soldiers had stripped off of him – felt ruffled on him.

Standing in front of Olai, near the door leading out of the small office, was a man in black uniforms. Olai raised his head once more, took only one glance before looking away. But his eyes saw everything he was looking out for.

The agent at the door had a pistol tucked into the holster hanging on his belt line. And the holster was clipped.

Whoever clipped their holster if they were supposed to use the weapon in the holster?

This guy had to be a rookie. He was probably still undergoing training.

A cuff hung near the pistol on the man’s belt, and the man’s hands hung by his sides.

From the ranks decorating his uniform, Olai knew this guy was a junior officer.

And the man was less than two seconds away. That’s how long it is going to take me to put you down, sir.

Quick arithmetic.

And a lot can happen in those two precious seconds.

Olai stole a glance at the glass in t door, and stopped his thoughts. The challenge of course would be what to do once I have this man down. There could be anywhere between ten to a hundred armed men outside that door.

He was still thinking when the door swung open, and another man walked in.

With the three of them in the small room, it was only a ma􀀴er of time between here and over-stuffy.

“Hi, Mister Oluchukwu Nnam.” The man said, smiling. “My name is Yuri. Hope we didn’t keep you waiting so long.”

Olai kept an expressionless face, meeting Yuri’s gaze head on. The good cop routine would have fooled anyone, but not Olai.

Yuri’s eyes lowered down to Olai’s clothes, and down to his shoes.

He’s sizing me up, Olai thought. Of course.

“What were you doing in the Senate President’s house?” Yuri began.

Olai sighed.

This has nothing to do with Aisha after all. Someone is trying to bury me for nothing.

He said nothing.

“You are going to talk to me one way or the other, Mister Olai.” Yuri said. “Is it okay if I call you Olai?”

Olai kept mute.

Yuri took the seat on the other side of the table.

Olai took a quick glance at the clipped holster on the uniformed man once more.

Two seconds.

I’ll wait my time.

###

The assassin clicked on the ear piece vibrating in her right ear. A click came on the telephone lines.

“I am in position.” She said.

“Only take out the target. No one else.” The voice spoke in clear words.

“I got that.” She said. “Can I get back to work now?”

“Report when it is done.”

The line went blank.

She put her eyes back in the rifle’s telescope, scanning the glass wall. The hall inside the glass wall was empty. There were two doors. The assassin read the words written across the doors. Staff convenience. Visitors’ Convenience.

Someone hurried cross the corridor, from left to right. The assassin followed the man with her cross hairs.

“Boom.” she said, imagining the bullet tearing through the man’s head, breaking his skull.

But this is not the target.

I’ll wait my time.

###

Bruce still had his head bowed, his elbow on the lone table, his fingers intertwined, when Ella walked into the interrogation room. The room was spacious. Fairly so. Rectangular.

The wall on the left was the glass mirror, and Ella knew the men on the other side could see and hear whatever went down in this room.

The three other walls were grey in colour, and in the ceiling, bright fluorescent tubes supplied white light.

Her eyes on Bruce, Ella banged the door shut, noticing the sudden stiffening in him.

But then it was gone in an instant, as his muscles relaxed. It happened so fast, it would have eluded an untrained eye.

But Ella saw the slight jerk.

This guy knew how to take sudden shock.

Facing away from Bruce, watching him from the corner of her eyes, Ella walked into the room, making sure her high heels clopped into the hard floor.

“Did you enjoy your cup of coffee?” she said.

Bruce raised his head, and Ella turned her face, meeting his gaze. The first thing she noticed were the dark rings around his eyes.

There was a thin film of sweat on his forehead. His nostrils flared once.

You think you’re a hard man, right? She held his gaze. His nostrils flared again.

Bruce looked away. “I want my lawyer.”

The bite in his voice said he was ready to do battle.

I am going to break through your defence, Bruce. I am going to get you to squeal. You will tell me everything you know, and then some. But those were not what she said.

“Patrick Ama is dead.” Her voice was flat when she said it.

Ella turned her gaze fast enough to notice the immediate effect the words had on him.

There was a whispered gasp. The lights in Bruce’s eyes dimmed a little.

He leaned back, resting his back to the backrest of the chair, his fingers curling into hammers of fury. His elbows going off the top of the table, but his fisted hands still on the table, his arms stretched straight. Good.

He didn’t respond for a long time. Ella watched his chest expand as he took in a deep breather, closing his eyes, and slowly shaking his head left and then right.

The breathe-out was laboured. Pained.

His chin dipped into his chest, his neck shrank. Disappeared. The guilt was obvious to Ella. What are you hiding, Bruce?

He lowered his head to a bow, and then raised his eyes again. Ella could see him struggling with the news. This was not a bad man. At least he believes me. Or else it wouldn’t have this effect on him.

When he opened his mouth, the voice had lost every fight in it. Dead.

“When?” he cleared his throat. “When did it happen?”

“Minutes ago.” Ella said. Then she brought her voice to a whisper. “I was there. His wife was also killed.”

“How did he die?”

“You won’t want to know.” Ella said. Bruce’s next words were sharp and high pitched. “How – ” then he brought his voice a little lower, trying to control the emotion, “how the hell did the man die?”

“He was stabbed.” Ella said.

“I knew this was going to happen.” Bruce whispered.

Ella kept quiet. When someone under stressed emotions makes a simple statement, she knew it was only the first drop from the faucet.

To get the water flowing, you don’t ask them for more. You shut up, and you wait for it.

“I knew they were going to come for him.”

Bruce repeated himself. Ella kept mute. Wait for it. “And I warned him,” the driver continued. “I did. I told him not to get engaged with all these. I think he deserved what he got, but his wife didn’t. She was an angel.”

The man now had tears welling up in his eyes. Ella kept quiet. She hadn’t gotten what she wanted.

Wait for it. As Ella watched, a realization crept into Bruce’s face. He looked up from his seat to Ella’s face.

“I will give you nothing.” He snarled, raising his voice. “You will get nothing from me.”

“You already know, don’t you?” Ella said. “You already know that there’s a killer out there, and if he finds out you’ve helped us, he might kill you too. You know that, don’t you?”

He said nothing.

Seemed the waiting was not working.

Time to change things. Plan B.

“You came to the hotel to take away the ring, right?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He shifted in his seat. “I need to use the loo.”

“You were caught on camera.” She said, ignoring his request.

He said nothing. His elbows were pulled back, seeming to dig into his sides, and the man himself seemed to have shrunk to half his size. He had been caught in a lie. Ella kept on.

“Aisha was killed because of something that had to do with that ring.” Ella raised her voice a notch. “You knew something about that ring that no else knew. Perhaps you did it to protect yourself. Were you having an affair? You and Aisha? Is that it?”

“Stop.” Bruce’s voice was low and guttural. Ella didn’t miss a beat.

“And so you came for the ring. Did you buy her that ring?” She raised her voice even higher. “Was she your lover? You saw Aisha’s body in that bathtub. You saw the blood. The knife in her chest. The bulging eyes. Did you see her die? That must have hurt like hell. Didn’t it?”

“Stop. I’m pressed.”

“You didn’t touch the body. You only took the ring.” Ella was screaming now, “and you were trying to protect yourself.” And then she lowered her voice to normal pitch. “I understand.”

“No.” he screamed, trying to hold back the tears now.

Ella screamed to the top of her voice.

“Then what is it?”

The man said nothing.

She kept the pressure on, voice raised.

“And then you kept the ring. You hid it. And now, the killer traces you to your boss and has killed the man and his innocent wife. I dare you to deny it.”

“Please stop.”

“So, by proxy Bruce,” Ella emphasized every word that came next in the sentence, “You. Killed. Your. Boss.”

Bruce slammed both his hands on the desk, getting to his feet, the chair in which he was seating crashing into the concrete wall behind him.

“You have it all wrong.” He said.

Ella said nothing. This was going well already. Time to close the confession.

“Okay,” Ella’s voice was calm and cool.

She paused. Silence. And then there was the low growl of a burbling sound, as if air was being pumped into water. Bruce jerked, placing his right hand on his tummy. Maybe he does need to use the toilet.

“I agree. You have to use the toilet. I have it all wrong. How about we all calm down, and then you can tell me what is really going on here? What exactly is in the ring?”

“The ring.” The man said, his voice breaking. She saw his throat bob as he swallowed. His breathing was labored. The sweat on his face. “The ring.” He repeated.

“Why is the ring that important?” Her voice remained calm. The scripture Ella had just read flashed through her mind.

Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

Did the killer think Bruce was having an affair with Aisha? Was that the meaning of that scripture?

The man said nothing. His eyes were closed now. A tear crawled down his left cheek now.

Slowly, he shook his head no. The slight sound of a whispered hiss filled the silence, but Ella knew that it didn’t come from his mouth, because she had her eyes on his face.

In the next second, she didn’t have to guess what had made the sound. The sickening smell of unflushed toilet filled the interrogation room.

Fart.

Okay, I agree. You do need to use the toilet.

Ella kept a straight face.

“I had to take the ring.” Bruce said through gritted teeth.

“The ring, Bruce?”

“The ring.” Bruce blinked, trying to clear back the tears. He seemed unsure of himself now. Ella had no idea if it was the guilt and bereavement he felt or the pressure to ease his bowels that had him where he was. “The ring. I gave it away.”

“Of course.” Ella pressed on. I just need to know why you had to come for the ring that night. “You gave it away. But why?”

Bruce closed his eyes, shaking his head.

Ella took her voice higher. “Why do you want the ring taken away?”

“The video camera.” Bruce broke down now, doubling over, and crying.

She kept quiet. Waited for him.

“The ring has a video camera in it.” He spat out. “Please, stop.”

She turned, walking to the door. “You can have your bathroom break now.”

Ella’s wrist watch said it was some minute past four pm.

She plugged the ear bud back into her ear.

###

Her rifle sitting idle beside her, the assassin had her eyes in a pair of binoculars, scanning the corridor on the topmost floor of the yellow house, through the glass wall.

The assassin on the roof didn’t have to wait for long.

That tingle of excitement she always had before a job, that slight tremor, began in her fingers when she saw the man walk into view from the left.

Bruce Akpan.

He seemed in pain, his hands clutching his tummy. The assassin felt her heart start again. The warmth spread through her chest.

She took a deep breathe to steady her hands, enjoying the building tension. I love this. She sighed out the air in her lungs. This had to be a one-bullet shot.

There was Bruce standing before the convenience. In the binocular-view, he looked not ten feet away, the sweat on his forehead glowing in the light of the flickering fluorescent in the ceiling.

The assassin dropped the binoculars, and raised the rifle. How heavy it felt. She put her eyes in the telescope, took aim, bringing her cross hairs to the base of the man’s skull.

That sweet spot where the skull met his neck, sitting on the first of the vertebrae bones.

And then she slowly started to put pressure on the trigger. The assassin’s finger already had the trigger bent backwards. An image passed through her mind of the man’s head losing its impeccable shape, like a teenager’s stone hitting a ripe orange fruit hanging up in a tree.

Another slight pull on the trigger would burst the man’s brain. But she paused her hand before the trigger when the words of the note passed through her mind.

The Charioteer. Goliath.

No. This had to happen God’s way.

She relaxed her finger on the trigger.

I’ll wait.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

On the bud in Ella’s ear, Yuri and Olai argued.

Or rather, Yuri threatened, trying to get Olai to say something. Ella didn’t hear Olai’s voice.

Minutes later, she heard the sound of flushing toilet from behind the door with Visitor’s Convenience written across it. Ten seconds went by. She was still waiting.

Another five went by.

Standing in front of the conveniences, she listened for noise from behind the door. No sound came.

Get out already Bruce.

Ella’s mind did a quick security check.

There was no way the driver was going to get away from this place through the walls of the conveniences, without attracting attention. The thing had been reinforced recently to handle just such an occurrence.

What if he came out with a gun? Ella perished the thought when she remembered the man must have been searched before he got into the interrogation room. But what if he wasn’t searched? What if somehow he had gotten himself a gun?

Pete’s voice sounded in Ella’s head. “Hey, does anyone know that the driver has had military training?”

“What?” Yuri’s voice sounded on the bud, filling Ella’s head.

The sound of turning metal came from the toilet door as the door knob began to turn, spiking her heartbeat.

Her right hand jerked on instinct, connecting to her belt. Her holster was empty. She had dropped the pistol in her drawer in the office. As the realization hit home, she took a step back, eyes going wide with vigilance.

What is Bruce up to?

“Yes.” Pete continued. “I’m looking at his military records right now. The man was once a cadet.”

“Once a cadet, really?” Yuri’s voice was alarmed.

Ella’s mind clicked. Olai was in the holding office with Yuri. What if this was by no means a coincidence? Olai had also once been a cadet at the Defence Academy. They could have met then.

Did they plan this together?

“Put a cuff on Olai.” Ella said.

“I thought so too.” Yuri’s voice came.

The toilet door knob was still turning. The sound of the latch going off the door frame came to Ella. The door hinges hissed, the door opening just a little bit. Stopped.

Ella saw the white of the tiled toilet walls through the slit. Two more seconds went by.

“Bruce?” She called.

The next sound that came on in Ella’s head was like that of a wooden plank slammed against a solid wall. Yuri groaned in her head.

The sounds came fast. Something like a cracked bone. The sound of scuffling feet. Rasp of a gun holster, a grunt of pain, a curse, thrashing, a pained effort at breathing.

“What was that?” Pete’s voice came on the bud. “What happened to the charioteer?”

The door before Ella swung open, slowly this time, Ella took another step backwards, ready for an attack. Her fingers clenched into fists beside her.

###

“Unto thee, O Lord,” the assassin mumbled, “do I lift up my soul.”

She closed her left eye, the right one looking into the telescope as she scanned the corridor. Only Ella stood there before the conveniences.

The assassin adjusted the knob on the ‘scope, zooming for a better view.

“O my God,” She said, “I trust in thee.” She ran her cross hairs onto the door of the toilet. She waited. She moved her view to Ella once more, and noticed the flight in the woman. The defensive stance. Was Ella getting scared?

Perhaps she could already sense something was going on.

But you, my dear Ella, have no idea what I’m bringing at you.

The assassin didn’t have to wait for long though, as the door started opening in. Then the door stopped. She took a deep breathe.

Tightened her grip on the rifle. The door started again, and the man stood there in the doorway. Sweat on his face. Bruce.

The assassin brought her index finger before the trigger. Moved the cross hairs to just above the man’s nose bridge.

That delicious spot.

Between his eyebrows.

How about we leave you some teaser, Ella? The assassin tapped the right button on the gun. She knew the red light would be visible to Ella now. You have one second Ella.

“Let me not be ashamed,” she said, “let not mine enemies triumph over me.”

She sent the bullet into flight.

###

The toilet door went open before Ella. The driver stood there in the doorway. Sweating.

And then it all made sense.

The Charioteer.

Pete had called him the Charioteer. The note Essien had read earlier. The charioteer.

I should have known. Driver of chariots.

Driver. The note had been talking about Bruce Akpan.

Ella’s hairs could have been pins standing each one different from the other.

And then Goliath.

Even as Ella looked at the man’s sweaty face, she saw the red dot on the man’s forehead.

Time became a rubber band stretched to its extreme.

Still.

The thoughts zapped through her mind in flashes. Words. Numbers. Pictures. The first note. Sisera. How did Patrick die? And now this. The Charioteer. It was crystal clear. The Charioteer. Driver. Bruce.

How did David kill Goliath? A stone in his forehead.

How could I have missed it. Her eyes remained on that red dot on Bruce’s forehead. A sniper’s aim?

These thought happened in an instant.

And then, as if coming from an outside source, the numbers made complete sense to her this instant. Sisera. The note from Aisha’s hotel room had said ‘1105’. Didn’t Essien say the senator was murdered somewhere around 11:05 am?

How could I have been an idiot not to have picked on that? 1630 now. This wasn’t a year. Or an ATM pin. It was the time of attack.

The killer gave me everything. In plain sight. Ella didn’t bother checking her wrist watch. She knew this was somewhere around the 4:30 pm mark.

All these things went through Ella’s mind in a millionth of a second.

She was almost sure that a bullet was going to blast through that red dot on Bruce’s head.

The rubber band stretched even more.

She blinked.

###

Olai kept his head bowed.

The man before him – Yuri, he had called himself – kept making threats Olai knew meant nothing.

He raised his head, stared at the man’s face. Stole a quick glance at the uniformed man standing at attention beside the door. Eyed the pistol in the clipped holster. Lowered his eyes again.

Two seconds is all I need.

“Olai,” Yuri said again, “for the last time, were you in the hotel with Aisha last night?”

Olai said nothing.

“What did you do with the ring?”

Olai kept his head bowed. I’m just going to keep quiet and wait for you to give me every bit of information, fool.

“What?” Yuri said. Olai raised his head, his first reaction being that this man might have read his mind.

Yuri had his right hand over his ear. And he was looking away. Someone else was talking to him.

Olai already knew there was a wireless bud in Yuri’s ear.

Yuri stood up, turned away, his back to Olai. Perhaps this is the time I need.

Whoever is talking to him surely is talking about me.

Olai brought his left leg from under the table, positioning it just outside the desk, placing his right leg under the desk. He tested the right leg against the table. This is a heavy desk, but I can raise it with this leg.

Good.

“Once a cadet?” Yuri’s voice came again. “Really?”

Yup. They are talking about me.

He wriggled his legs inside his shoes to try and shake off the tension building inside his tummy.

“I thought so too.” Yuri’s voice had a resigned tone to it now.

Someone found something about me, and this man had just received new orders. They probably are going to take me somewhere and bury me. Not gonna happen.

He saw Yuri drop his left hand from his ear.

Yuri began to turn, his right hand connecting to his belt line. To a cuff. Or a gun?

I’m not waiting to find out.

Olai took one look at the uniformed man.

Novice. Yuri was half-way turned by now.

This was when Olai moved.

I have two seconds.

He sprang to his feet, his right leg flinging the table onto Yuri. The table came for Yuri’s head, but his eyes – wide now – saw the table just in time. He sidestepped it.

And the table crashed onto the wall, hitting Yuri’s hand and taking the cuff down with it as it went. Yuri groaned, his eyes wide now.

Shock.

Good.

Olai crossed the distance in one swift move and threw his fist into Yuri’s face.

Nose Bridge cracked.

Blood.

Yuri cursed, both hands covering his broken nose. Olai swung his leg at Yuri, planted a kick in Yuri’s tummy. Yuri was bending over from the pain when Olai’s left elbow stopped him, connecting with his jaw, sending him into the air, his back slamming into the wall.

Olai didn’t wait to see the wall send Yuri back, didn’t wait to see Yuri fall faced down, motionless.

He already turned to the man at the door.

The man’s fingers were at his waist, fumbling with the clip of his holster, his eyes wide alert. Owl eyes.

One second to go.

The agent’s holster came undone. Olai took one step towards the uniformed man.

Left foot. The man’s fingers closed round his pistol’s grip. Olai leapt into the air. The pistol came off the holster. Olai was already spinning in the air, his left leg pointed to the centre of the earth, his right leg spread out in a round house slapping kick.

Olai’s right foot found the man’s cheek. The sound of shifting bones. Pistol hit the floor, the sound of metal against tiled earth.

When Olai landed on both feet, the uniformed man was on the floor, knocked out cold.

His chest heaving now, he walked back over to Yuri, snatched the cuffs on the floor, and cuffed him to an arm of the disfigured table.

I need to get out of here.

Time was of the essence. Olai went back to the chair in which he had been seated. He raised his hand to the cupboard built into the wall. His fingers turned the key in the keyhole. He grabbed the white metallic handle, pulled it open.

Inside the cupboard looked like a safe.

His eyes searched round the box in a sweep. Nothing interesting. Old files and papers held together by rubber bands of red and yellow and green stood to the left side of the safe. Some old cell phones on the floor of the cupboard, their screens broken beyond repair. And some sim cards.

Olai closed the box, but just before the lid had hit home, he paused. Pulled it open again. And his eyes noticed the device on the cupboard floor. Sitting in the middle of the cupboard, together with all the old cell phones.

When he saw it, he recognized it for what it was. Shaped like a business card. Dark green all over. Brown lines running all over the card. A wire connected to one end of the card. A compartment for a SIM card on the other end. Written on the black device was the words “GSM Plugin SIM.” An untrained eye would have thought it was the motherboard of some damaged cell phone.

Not to Olai. He knew it was an old model sim tap and duplicator.

An overheated light bulb exploded in Olai’s head.

Ideas.

He grabbed the device. I hope this thing still works.

Next, he searched Yuri, grabbed the phone in Yuri’s hip pocket. Switched off the device. Got out the battery. Picked out Yuri’s sim card, inserted it into the sim tap device. Connected the sim tap’s wire to Yuri’s phone.

A red light on the green card blinked red once and then turned green.

Yup. It does work.

He removed Yuri’s sim card. Replaced it into Yuri’s phone.

Next, Olai put the sim duplicator in his pocket. Replaced Yuri’s phone into the man’s pocket, grabbed the man’s car keys.

Moved to the door. His hand hesitated for all of one second.

He glanced at the wrist watch on the uniformed man. 4:30 pm.

Olai opened the door, and stepped into the corridor.

He looked right. No one.

He turned left.

A woman stood down the hall. Ella.

Their gazes met.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Ella’s eyelids slapped themselves in that one blink.

They opened up again. That single second went by in excruciating slow motion.

Stretching.

The hands on either end of the taut rubber band were trembling now. Another featherweight of tension would break the band of time.

The thoughts in Ella’s head overlapping.

Bruce still stood there before her. His face pretty, burrowed skin on that sweaty forehead. That red dot stationed at the midpoint between both brows. Ella herself a mass of tightened nerves.

A sound came from down the corridor. A door opened. She half turned her eyes, meeting the gaze of the man who had just emerged from the holding office down the corridor. Not Yuri.

Olai.

She met his gaze.

His alert eyes, his fisted hands, the heave of his chest, told the entire story. The thrashing Ella had heard on the wireless cuff earlier. This man just floored Yuri.

Everything became clear to her in that same stretch of a microsecond.

And then that taut rubber band of time broke.

And everything swept by in fastforwards, as if someone had just tapped a button on a grand remote controller.

Ella’s eyes moved back to the red dot. It was all there in an instant.

Red dot.

Sweat.

Eye brows.

And then it was no more. In its place was a head, half of which was gone. Blasted beyond recognition. Bloodied brains splattering on the toilet door from which the driver had emerged seconds ago.

The bullet had done its damage before the glass behind Ella even recognized it was under attack, screaming its deafening apologies into Ella’s ears.

As a million fragments of glass bit into the skin on Ella’s back, the pain barely registering, she realized the bullet had come from behind her. Sniper.

She went down flat on the floor, rolling out of sight.

From somewhere in the ceiling, a fire alarm blared now.

Ella tried getting to her feet, but she slipped, crashing onto the floor, her heart pounding now.

Away from the glass now, the pain of the fall travelling through her, she paused, looking through the broken glass wall. She saw nothing for a while. And then her eyes settled on that roof.

On the other side of the street, a woman dressed in black ran on the roof. Low cut natural negroid hair. Black tightfitting leather clothes. Young feminine curves.

Someone was barking orders into a walkie-talkie. Or was it a wireless bud? It didn’t matter.

The fire alarm blared on.

A splitting ache tore through her head.

Ella felt a little drowsy.

The world began to spin.

She held onto a nearby wall. The pain from the glasses in her back registered now.

Everything went dark.

###

When he took one step into the hallway, Olai looked right, and then turned his eyes left. There. Standing at the end of the corridor was a woman.

Agent Gabriella Johnson.

I’ve heard of her before.

Another man stood to the right before an open door. The woman stood rooted to the floor, like she had just seen a ghost. Scared.

Olai met her gaze. She opened her mouth to say something.

And every other thing happened in slow motion, like in a horror movie. A smashing sound. Breaking glass. Like the sound of rolling thunder.

Fragments of glass from the left flew straight across the floor and across the air, to the right towards the man standing there.

The man’s head lost its shape, exploding with blood.

Snipe shot. The man’s body dropped to the floor. Blood all over.

The woman was taking cover now, running away out of sight.

Olai turned in the other direction.

Hurried away towards the elevator, but changed his mind. The building was going to be on lock down soon.

He turned to the staircase, and hurried down three stairs at a time. Soon, there were several people on the staircase, some of them going up and some going down.

Pandemonium.

An alarm went off somewhere in the building. Loudspeakers boomed. There had been an attack on the SSS headquarters building.

I’m outta here.

###

The assassin still had her eyes in the telescope as her finger released the trigger.

In her view, she saw the charioteer’s head fling backwards as the bullet met him. A good fraction of the head was gone.

The spent bullet cartridge fell to the floor, making a little chime against the concrete roofing. Smoke from the spent cartridge filtering into her view in the telescope.

“Thank you Lord.” She said, as her view cleared once more.

In the lobby, Ella was running now, crouching to the floor. I don’t have much time. An alarm would soon be on. The entire street is going to be on a lock down in minutes.

But the assassin had planned everything from the beginning.

Replacing her weapon into the box in which it came, she picked up the grenade in the box, tapped the button on the bomb. On the bomb, a red bulb turned on.

Then she grabbed the small remote. The detonator. She produced a cardboard paper the size of a small business card.

The note for Ella. It had Ella’s name printed across the little white square. She shut the suitcase.

Crouching, and with the detonator in her hand, the assassin dashed to the back end of the roof, opposite direction from the SSS building. Halfway across the roof, she bent down, dropping the note. This should be far away from the bomb explosion.

She ran to the edge of the flat roof now, and just as she dived off the roof into the compound below, her right hand grabbed the safety strap she had set up earlier, her left hand tapping the only button on the detonator.

Even while in the air, even as the low sound of the exploding suitcase came to her, the assassin wondered who the next target would be.

Just one more.

###

The drumming of Olai’s heart was all he heard in his head.

The last flights of stairs now.

He ran down, three stairs at a time. Bright energy saving bulbs on the wall whipping past as he went.

Down the stairs to the ground floor.

Walking slowly now. Taking a deep breath, calming his racing pulse.

Men dressed in black and ash and dark blue suits everywhere, and signs of hanging holsters under their jackets. Are they actually looking at me?

He noticed the alertness in their eyes. Like a pack of wolves in the wild. The deliberate purposefulness in each and every step they took, like a scorpion before it stings a beetle, its muscles braced for a retreat in case of danger. A walkie-talkie cackled in the room.

Someone switched it off.

A loudspeaker made an announcement.

As if from a switch of some sort, the men scattered about. A disturbed beehive. Olai didn’t even bother paying attention to whatever the loudspeaker was saying.

I need to get out of here. Now.

The exit door stood right there, another man in black suits standing at it. Olai ran his eyes across the lobby before him, one quick sweeping glance across everyone.

The announcement would soon come for the building to be sealed. That is if it hadn’t come yet. Some men ran into an open elevator. The door slid shut.

A walkie-talkie cackled. Another followed it. A man barked some orders into his communicator. Another man, breathing hard, hurried towards Olai, a look of recognition in the man’s eyes as his gaze met Olai’s.

His eyes looked like those of an owl. Or more like an archer’s bull’s eyes. Two white round balls with a black dot in the middle of each of them. Coloured black with cold ruthless calmness.

Those eyes started a fresh tightening of the skin on Olai’s nape. This is it. I’m doomed. Olai’s fingers instinctively closed into a grip.

This was a bad idea from the start. I should have just allowed them do whatever they wanted.

Olai watched the man’s hand fumble with his belt line. A gun? Cuffs? He noticed the squint in the man’s eyes. The owl just blinked.

You, Mister, will not take me down without a fight, Olai decided.

He took one step towards the man. Your move first, sir. The man looked away, zooming past before Olai had decided to land the first blow. He took a glance behind him. The man was already hurrying up the staircase, pulling out a walkie-talkie from his belt, screaming into it. All these things happened in seconds.

Olai turned to the exit. An agent stood there. Walkie–talkie in hand. People moved in and out of the exit. Which means the loudspeaker had not ordered a lock down.

He moved to the door. The walkie-talkie cackled. The man brought it to his lips. Olai walked past him. The loudspeaker called out.

“Lock down the building. I repeat lock down the building. A prisoner has escaped.”

Olai was already fifteen steps away, when he heard the man at the exit door stopping people from leaving.

He hurried into the parking lot. In his hand was the car keys he had seized from Yuri.

The parking lot was filled with cars. These men surely did have lots of luxury, if their exotic cars were anyway to judge.

He pointed the car key toward some cars, tapped one of the bu􀀴ons on it. Nothing. He walked some more into the large lot. Tapped the key again.

A car beeped once. From behind him.

Olai turned. He tapped the key again, and the car replied in the positive.

A Mercedes. C-class.

Olai got behind the wheels. The phone in his pocket jumped into his palm in an instant. Olai opened the phone. Removed the SIM card. Inserted the one he had picked from the cupboard upstairs. Turned on the phone. I hope this works.

The phone beeped. Its light came on. Olai inserted the car key into the ignition. He turned it. The phone beeped again. Olai read the words on the screen.

Import contact to phone?

Yes, No.

He tapped the Yes button. The phone beeped once more. Yup, it is working. Yuri’s phone now had a double. Olai dumped the phone on the passenger’s seat, and placed both of his hands on the steering wheel.

As he drove away from the parking lot, the agent at the entrance of the building still stopped people from leaving.

Wheew.

That was close.

… TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT EPISODE.

 

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