Chinedu's mind was in confusion. Alhaji was the last person he had expected to be involved with Dabaru and his gang. What was his benefactor doing here? He pressed back further into his corner while still keeping his ears alert for any information that might help him prevent a move on Iphey. He shifted in his seat till he was facing away from them.
"So Dabaru, when is your oga coming? I don't know why he needs me to be present; I've given you the information you need already," he heard Alhaji Galadima say.
"I don't know, but he said you should be here if you want to receive your pay. When he comes, you can ask him yourself." Dabaru sounded curt and abrupt. Chinedu was left to wonder if they had a mutual benefactor, but he was sure that Dabaru would have no love for any human being in a police uniform.
The door opened, and two portly, affluent looking men walked in accompanied by a couple of large young men in street wear. Chinedu watched from the corner of his eyes as they made their way to the section of the bar where Galadima and Dabaru were sitting.
Something struck him about one of the men standing to the left of Dabaru. The man turned away but the niggling familiarity remained as the gang all took turns to bow or prostrate to the newcomers.
"Good evening, gentlemen." One of the affluent men, he was dressed in a pale blue agbada, greeted them back, as he ordered for a round of drinks for them all.
“Chief! Chief!” They hailed him. Chinedu ignored the noise and rather tried to get a good look at the Chief and the other man who was dressed in a Safari suit and carried a suitcase.
"So Chief, what's the problem? Why have you asked me to come here, now?" Alhaji Galadima asked.
Chief laughed. "I will explain. We are waiting for a few more guests, all will soon be clear."
Just then, there was a minor commotion outside the bar. Chinedu looked up and his heart stopped for a second as he saw Iphey being hauled in by a thug. Before he could think about how she had been captured, another thug dragged in James who had a bruise to his head and a swollen lip; it looked like he had just received a good beating.
Iphey stifled the cry of pain that came to her lips when the man who was holding her pushed her along. He was still slightly behind her, the gun in his other hand as he increased pressure on her arm.
“Move!” He whispered harshly, directing her towards a group to the right. This bar was just as smoky if a lot seedier than Silverbird. She shuddered as thoughts flooded her mind. Her kidnapper had laughed at her as he prodded her to the car outside Galleria. He leered at her skimpy clothes and said he preferred them to what she had been wearing earlier. He told her not to be surprised because they had been following her for weeks, he and his partner, and knew her very well. She had almost fooled him with the sultry outfit but once she spoke, she had betrayed herself.
Iphey had wished then she had kept her mouth shut and walked away instead of giving in to her haughty outrage at his touch. He told her that they had accosted James when he had tried to leave while she was away. His partner forced James, at gun point, to remain at the table and he, Stalin, had come to watch the door to the ladies.
Iphey looked over at James now as he limped along beside her. He had tried to be heroic when they had disembarked outside. After signalling her to run, he’d jumped on the guy who held him. His captor and their driver had vented their spleen on him with more blows than necessary. Stalin hadn't even released her for a second. Her head sunk to her chest as her eyes shut in a deep sigh.
"Aha!" said a voice before her, and her eyes sprang open. A fat man was rubbing his large hands with satisfaction. He resembled the fat frog on the threading in front of his blue Agbada. "Now we begin."
He turned to James with a menacing look. "We have been very good to you. You have eluded us several times now, each time failing to produce the money that you owe us."
James spoke in a low voice. "I don't have the money, where do you want me to get 20 million..."
“Chief, it is now over 100million Naira, including T-shark’s dues and all the interest…” The man that spoke had an open suitcase before him.
“T-shark betrayed us all!” James shouted.
“Enough!” Chief banged the table, making everyone jump. "James, do you want what happened to T-shark to happen to you too? Maybe we should work on your girlfriend." he said, gesturing to Iphey.
"I am not his girlfriend!" Iphey blurted out and then kept talking. Wasn’t that what one was supposed to do in this kind of situation? “You have got the wrong person…”
Chief slashed the air and her captor placed a meaty palm over her mouth and nudged her with the gun. As she struggled for air, Iphey wondered if she would survive this. She glanced around, searching the bar for any means of help or escape. Apart from the large group before her, there were just two or so other patrons scattered around the other empty tables.
Chief continued, "Well, I know that both of you are co-operating to hide the money. Today we will find out where it is."
He turned to the man beside him. “Galadima, if one of my boys kills someone who owes me 100 million, will it be murder? The man shook his head.
Chief motioned to the tall and rangy man who sat close to where Iphey stood. "Oya Dabaru, do what you have to do."
The ugly scarred man needed little prompting. He grabbed Iphey’s arm and twisted a finger backwards, causing her to gasp in pain.
"Talk!" he spat out in a guttural tone. "Where is the money?"
James begin to stammer entreaties even as his eyes pleaded with hers. "Abeg... p-please, she knows nothing about this... it's just me..."
The bar was filled with Iphey's shrieks of agony as her torturer applied even more force to ratchet up the pain.
Hearing the sound of Iphey in pain was more than Chinedu could bear. He had earlier sent a text to Gbenro; in it, he had asked him to forward another message to the number Habib had provided, asking for back-up policemen. With Iphey already here, there was no need to wait. It was time for action. A well aimed throw of his glass tumbler shattered the lone light bulb in the bar, plunging the place into darkness.
There were shouts of surprise and outrage, with Chief yelling, "Stalin! Odo! Hold the girl! Hold James! Make sure they do not escape!"
Soon the bar was lit with a ghostly pale light as the Chief's men waved their mobile phones around, trying identify the intruder.
Chinedu had joined the shadows closer to the group. He could just make out the outline of the man holding Iphey in front of him. He raised his arm high, and hit.
"Yeeeeeh!" At the scream, everyone scattered.
As Chinedu nimbly crouched to the ground, he stabbed another man in the leg with the jagged edge of the bottle he’d broken over Stalin’s head. Then, he scrambled in the direction of the back door as a cacophony of shots rang out. Chinedu prayed that Iphey had not been hit. He wished that he had been able to call out a warning to her, to get to her, but that would give him away.
As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw Iphey under a table, her arms wrapped around her side. His heart sped up as he imagined all sorts. Had she been shot? Was that why... he breathed again when she began to move. She crawled on the floor, heading to the front door, inching closer and closer... and then a powerful beam of light swung round the bar and alighted on her. Chinedu cursed and froze.
Dabaru smiled cruelly, at the other end of the torch. In his other hand was a gun. Chinedu watched him walk towards Iphey.
"Get up." When she hesitated, Dabaru dragged her up roughly and held her close as he shouted out, "Whoever is trying to cause wahala, we are holding the girl. If you know what is good for you, you will come forward now, or else I will enjoy killing her!"
Chinedu groaned in despair. There was nothing else for it... he would have to give himself up.
Before he could get to his feet, he heard a shout; someone had jumped on Dabaru. Chinedu scooted deeper into the shadows and watched as Dabaru and a man he could now identify as James struggled together, lit up by torchlight. Iphey was nowhere in sight. Chinedu moved closer to the back door as more shots were fired around the dark room.
“Stop shooting!” Dabaru screamed. Two final shots echoed, and there was James sprawled out on the floor in a pool of his blood.
The sound of police sirens outside brought fresh confusion. One man shot through a glass window and attempted to climb out.
“Hold it!” A familiar voice rung out. It was Habib. Gaunt and with a fully bearded face, it was him Chinedu had almost recognized earlier. It seemed that in the melee, he and his undercover colleagues had taken out some of the men. As the back-up police men barged into the room with torchlights, Chinedu noticed the lifeless bodies on the ground. The rest of the men had their hands in the air.
Dabaru began shooting wildly as he backed away from the front door. A click sounded when his gun emptied of bullets. He turned and ran towards the back door.
Chinedu stood up and faced him with a smile. "Ol' boy, which ones now?” He enjoyed the look of dismay and surprise on Dabaru’s face before his jaw connected with Chinedu’s fist.
“That was for my girlfriend," he said to the passed out thug.
Habib arrived at his side and they exchanged a tight handshake and shoulder bump.
“Galadima?” Chinedu whispered?
“High level, deep, double agent.” Habib panted. “He is for us.”
Chinedu breathed easier at the news. The police were already handcuffing Alhaji Galadima, the Chief and the others who had been in the bar. He walked outside ignoring the beckons of the police and Gbenro. There was only one person he was interested in answering to, and he was yet to see her.
"Chinedu?" she called from behind a car.
"Iphey!" he cried, running towards her.
That's it folks. There will be an epilogue, where you decide what happens to our main characters. I have received no opposition to the eBook idea so you have that to look forward t if you prefer to read all the episodes together.
Hope your week has started off well? Mwah!