Read Previous Episodes Of The Immortals’ Code
THE MORNING AFTER TINA DIED
Desire rubbed her eyes tiredly as she followed Hamza into his house. She forced out a stiff yawn and was tempted to drop into the nearest couch for a nap but she remembered she had to push Hamza into packing up a few things for his escape. It was seven in the morning and she felt they had taken enough risks already. She had used her limitless connections and gotten someone to allow them access to Tina’s corpse even though she knew showing their faces at the hospital at daylight was stupid and unprofessional of her. But Hamza had insisted on seeing Tina and there was nothing Desire could do about it.
On their way out of the hospital, she called one of her contacts to confirm a flight for Hamza that was leaving for Helsinki at 10am. A fake passport and temporary resident permit were already waiting. All that was left was for him to show up at the airport in one piece.
Desire wanted him far away, to begin a new life and forget everything that had happened. She commended herself for holding back on the intimate details of the full story. Everything she told him about Captain, the money and the person he had sent to kill him and his friends had not included names or exposed the identities of anyone. As far as Hamza knew, the man after them was a faceless politician and Sefia was just Moses’ girlfriend. Hamza believed he alone was privy to the information Desire had shared, that all his friends were still oblivious of the fact that they were marked.
“I have to go do a few things, Hamza,” Desire said, lighting a cigarette. “Would you be ready when I get back?”
Hamza nodded and she looked at him with observant eyes. Something appeared odd about his manner. He seemed restless and hung to his phone suspiciously.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“What type of question is that? My friend just got murdered and you’re asking me if I’m okay?”
“I’m sorry. I just asked. I thought I sensed something off…”
“Nafisa, everything is off! Tina just died and whoever killed her will come for me next!”
“Hamza, relax. Nobody’s coming for you right now. All you need to do is dress up, pack light and wait for me. Still have the gun I gave you?”
“Lock the door. I’ll be back soon.” She walked out.
Hamza secured the door after her and watched from the window as she entered a black SUV with tint windows and drove away. He was very sure she had not come with the jeep the previous night; it seemed to have just cropped out from the blue. But Hamza had long given up on figuring out what skeletons hid in Desire’s closet. Whoever took her from home years ago, thrust her back into his life a different human being and not the type that he particularly wanted to know.
He let down the curtain and shut his window after her jeep disappeared from sight. Next, he thumbed through his phone contacts and called a certain Inspector Etim who answered his call upon first ring.
“Sir, I’m in trouble,” he said rapidly, not responding to the man’s greeting. “I need your help. Somebody is after my life.”
The man took a few seconds before replying. “I’m with a friend on Third Mainland right now, Hamza. If you can make it here in fifteen minutes, you’ll meet us.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m on my way.”
Already heading to his bedroom, Hamza terminated the call. He picked his helmet and the key to his power bike from the floor just beside his bed and made it out again. The day was already promising to be hot as an unfriendly sun rose fiercely in the horizon. Hamza squinted at its brightness as he walked to a small shopping complex across the street from his house to get his power bike.
* * * * * * * * *
Inspector Etim was once a handsome man; so his wife of twenty-two years would tell you. Then she would add that he had gone and eaten himself to ugliness. But if you looked at him, you would find nothing particularly obese or ugly about him. He just basically looked like men his age that seemed to have arrived at a certain level and had a full gut to show for it. But Etim had more than a gut and a good salary. He possessed a high-quality résumé as one of the best detectives in the police force. With years of experience, working with agents and officers from the military intelligence and security service, he had garnered the respect of men of high standing. Etim on the outside was your average, annoying plainclothes policeman but he was one of the very few people that had direct access to the president. Yet he was not known to brag about his achievements. A strong moral upbringing kept him level-headed and humble in the way he lived and how he spent his wealth, though his wife would argue that he was just tight-fisted. And in that statement, she might be fairly right because Etim never changed anything he owned unless it was totally kaput.
For instance, his car—an old Toyota Camry given to him by the former Head of State, Igwe Refuge Nwosu, on the occasion of Etim’s birthday in 2000—was still in his possession fourteen years later. Etim had no intention of doing away with it even though it was hardly serving its purpose. There wasn’t a street in Lagos that had not witnessed its shameful breakdown. Etim would always come out from behind the wheels frowning, scolding the poor vehicle before using his non-smartphone to call his mechanic to jam the car back into life.
On this particular occasion, the car, right in the middle of the Third Mainland Bridge, spurted out a loud blast from its exhaust and died on Etim seconds later. Etim did his ritual of scolding the car whilst dialing his mechanic. As the phone rang on the other end, a sleek, silver car, a 2012 Camry parked in front of Etim. The owner of the brand new car, a young man whom Etim had just been with in a meeting a short while before, stepped out and walked to him.
“Good morning, sir.”
Etim growled silently to himself before he answered. “Lanre, how far na?”
Lanre smiled. “I’m good sir. You and this car again.”
“Don’t mind the thing. And now my mechanic says he’s not in town.”
Lanre put his hands into his pockets and stood with legs apart. “I can give you a ride.”
The older man considered the offer briefly and was about to give his reply when Hamza’s call came in. He excused himself to answer the call. Lanre, an engineer of all sorts, used the opportunity to look into Etim’s dead engine and the prognosis was not good. He slammed the hood back as Etim returned.
“Sir, throw this car away na. I don tell you before.” Lanre dusted dirt off his hands.
Etim pinched at the wedge of his trouser from behind and shook his butt free. “I should sell my car? Will you buy me another one?”
“With God all things are possible.” Lanre laughed.
“Na so. Because na your papa dey chop all the money for this country.”
“Ah, no. Alhaji has his own ways, me I get my own. So, let me drop you off. Where are you off to?”
“To Ikoyi. Come, young man, why are you not married sef?”
Lanre’s full brows tweaked silently at the unexpected question but he gave Etim an answer. “I believe you asked that same question last week when you subjected me to the most tasteless Mama Calabar I have ever eaten in my entire life. I spent that whole night in my toilet.”
Etim laughed heartily and repeated the action of freeing his butt from his trousers as he recalled the night in question. “Don’t mind that woman. She’s my wife’s friend. If I don’t patronize her now, they’ll say I’m too stingy.”
Lanre laughed, understanding the ‘they’ to mean Etim’s wife. He and the older man had a strong bond even though there was twenty years difference between them. They first had the pleasurable opportunity of working with each other ten years ago when Lanre, a fresh recruit into the Nigerian Security Service was shoved unto Etim’s laps to learn the ropes while he investigated a high profile murder case. The team comprised of a joint task force and Lanre was the youngest but he surprised them all with his finely tuned eyes that hardly missed intricate details. Etim nicknamed him Dada Holmes and the handle stuck. ‘Dada’ obviously stood for Lanre’s well-groomed dreadlocks while ‘Holmes’ was because of the similarities in crime-solving that Lanre shared with the fictional Sherlock Holmes. Like Etim, Lanre gained a good name and standing amongst the necessary government and clandestine security agencies. But he would always tell anyone who was willing to hear, that he owed Etim his life.
“I’m waiting for someone. Hope you’re not in a hurry?” Etim asked Lanre who was briefly carried away by the speeding vehicles over the 11km bridge.
“No, I’m not in a hurry,” Lanre replied.
“So about the wife issue…” Etim continued, walking to Lanre’s car to hide from the sun.
“My wife keh. No, the wife you are yet to have.”
Lanre laughed and opened the passenger door for Etim. They both got in and chatted about trivial things for a while before Etim heard the distinct sound of Hamza’s bike in the distance. Seconds later, Hamza arrived and parked in the space between the two cars. Etim stuck out a short hand from the window and invited him over. Hamza walked to Lanre’s car and was asked to sit behind.
“Good morning, sir,” Hamza said.
“How are you, boy?” Etim asked.
“Meet Lanre. Lanre, this is Hamza.”
Both guys shook hands while Etim continued.
“Hamza and I met here on this bridge, right?”
“Yeah,” Hamza replied, nodding.
“I remember that day. My car broke down further ahead and una know how Lagosians dey nau. Nobody wanted to help but Hamza stopped, gave me a ride back to the mainland, got his own mechanic to fix the car and didn’t collect a dime from me. So I told him ‘whenever you have any problem, just call me and I will help because you are a good person.’ You truly are, Hamza.” Etim tapped the younger man on his shoulder lightly.
“Always my pleasure, sir,” Hamza replied and dabbed at his forehead to dry out sweat.
“So who is this person that wants to kill you?” Etim asked and Hamza looked at Lanre uneasily. “You can tell Lanre anything. In short, he is the best person to help you. So, speak.”
Hamza wasn’t so sure about Lanre but he spoke all the same. He did not miss a single detail as he related his entire tale to the two men. He noticed that they kept exchanging knowing glances at each other but he made nothing of it.
“So you don’t know this man who owns the dollars hidden underground?” Etim asked after Hamza was done.
“No. My sister didn’t tell me his name.”
“Just out of curiosity, what is your sister’s name?” Lanre asked and Hamza looked at him guardedly before he answered.
Lanre showed no significant reaction to the mention of the name.
“So she wants you to leave the country now?” Etim asked Hamza.
“Immediately. But I don’t want to. It would be unfair not to tell my friends. And that’s why I came to you sir. I don’t trust the police but I trust you.”
“You don’t trust the police?” Etim appeared hurt. “The police is your friend.”
“Like hell they are,” Lanre scoffed and Etim gave a short laugh which ended in a serious face cast on Hamza. He threw a barrage of questions at him; Lanre interjected here and there with questions of his own and finally, Etim huffed and looked at Lanre. “This is your case, Dada Holmes.”
Lanre gave a slight bop of his head and pulled out his wallet from his back pocket and concentrated on it as he spoke to Hamza. “Your life is already dead as it is. The criminal world that runs in Nigeria is a connection of strong networks. The same person who would get you a fake visa to travel out will sell your information to the man you’re running from for a good fee or under threat. So if you leave this country, they will find you and kill you even if they find you at the gates of heaven.”
“So what do I do?” Hamza perspired intensely.
“What you’ll do is try not to leave the country.”
“Listen to me.” Lanre turned to face Hamza. He seemed to study him carefully as he spoke. “Your life depends on the instructions I’ll give you now.” Lanre took out a plastic gold card from his wallet. “First, give me your phone.”
Hamza brought out his phone from his pocket and handed it to Lanre who passed it to Etim, who in turn flung it over the bridge.
“What the–!” Hamza exclaimed.
“They have probably tapped that phone and are tracking your movement,” Lanre informed.
“So how do I get in touch with my sister?” Hamza was still stunned at what had just happened to his phone.
“Your sister will be fine. You are the one in danger.” Lanre handed the gold card to him. “You will go to Leòn Hotels at Ikoyi and book a presidential suite with this card. Stay in and don’t order anything or let anyone in. Understand?”
“Then I will come and meet you there later.”
“That’s all?” Hamza sounded disappointed.
“For now, yes. But first, you’ll ditch your bike and pick a cab to get you there.”
There was silence that followed immediately with Hamza looking at both men, waiting for more instructions.
“What are you waiting for?” Etim asked. “Go and stop a taxi.”
Hamza nodded and slowly stepped out of the car, thanking them both.
“Your helmet and your key?”
Hamza handed the requested items to Etim who waved him away hurriedly. He stumbled out to the pavement and stood by the road, glancing back at them and looking out for a cab at the same time. Back in the Lanre’s car, Lanre had already put a call through to some agents he worked with and assured by their response, he sat and watched together with Etim as Hamza got into a yellow cab.
“And there he goes,” Etim murmured.
“It’s funny,” Lanre said with a huge smile “Captain believes that we have access to his money and whatever information he’s hiding through one of Hamza’s friends . But we don’t. The door just opened up for us now through Hamza.”
“Then you better make me proud, Lanre,” Etim looked gravely into Lanre’s eyes. “Just like oga at the top said, Captain has to be brought down at any cost.”
Lanre rested his head on his steering and sighed.
“Look, forget that he’s like a father to you or that he and your father are friends. Forget that you have strong ties with the Igwe family; forget that you’re seeing his niece…”
Lanre turned slightly and raised surprised brows at Etim.
“Yes, I know about your relationship with the girl,” Etim stated. “But I don’t want you to be distracted with that. I need you to remain focused. If nothing drives you to go after that man with a great deal of venom, remember your mother and how he killed her. Give her the justice she deserves. Captain should know no mercy. Follow him hard and follow him uncompromisingly. You have the best team and resources with you. Bring the bastard down, Dada Holmes.”
Lanre sat up. “That’s what I intend to do, sir,” he said resolutely.
* * * * * * * * * *
Hamza’s hired cab came to stop outside Leòn Hotels on Alfred Rewane Street in Ikoyi. Hamza who was in deep thought was brought back to his environments when the cab driver alerted him of their arrival.
Hamza muttered to himself and pulled out a couple of one thousand naira notes from his wallet. The cab driver took the money and was in the process of shoving it into his glove compartment when three men dressed casually burst upon the car. One got in beside the driver while the other two got in behind, sandwiching Hamza. It happened so fast that neither Hamza nor the driver was able to do or say anything. The guys behind held Hamza while the one in front flashed a gun at the driver and asked him to drive. The taxi jerked forward then began to slowly ease itself back into the street.
* * * * * * * * * *
Desire was never known to express her anger or any other emotion. She was taught to anticipate anything at any time and not show any form of reaction to situations aimed at pushing out emotions from her. But when she had returned to Hamza’s that morning and found his apartment empty, and she wasn’t able to reach his phone, an untidy heap of emotions began to boil beneath her composed surface. She tried to reason rationally as she looked for grounds to believe Hamza was safe, but as the hours passed with no sign of him, she resigned to the reality that he was either abducted or dead somewhere. Having accepted that, she allowed the emotions in her burst through and the first thing she felt was pure anger frothing for Sefia.
She called Sefia’s phone and laid out an explicit threat. “If I don’t see Hamza alive by nightfall, you’re dead Sefi.”
“Believe me, I would inform you first about how I intend to kill Hamza and at what time before I commence,” Sefia said silently. “You know my MO, Nafi.”
“I don’t give a fuck about your MO. Just go and dig your grave, sweetie.”
Desire ended the call and sat in the silence of Hamza’s sitting room. She got out her pack of cigarettes and took out all twelve cigarette sticks left in it. One by one she disemboweled them and began to chew the leaves in ire as she counted the minutes before she arose to avenge her brother’s disappearance.
* * * * * * * * * *
Hamza could hardly breathe through the thick cloth that was used to cover his face. Just like he had seen in movies, he was tied to a chair, his hands to his back, and his entire face covered in a thick, dark cloth. He was sitting in a room that was cold and smelled like fresh papers from a paper mill. There were no sounds in the environment; the silence was incredible and threatened to make him go crazy. He had been held for almost ten hours but Hamza had no way of knowing. At some point he had slept off and had a bad dream where he saw Tina being gored to death by a wild cow, only for the cow to turn around and stare at him with the face of his sister. He had screamed out when he awoke but the only response he got was the echo of his own voice.
His strength was now bereft of him and his head hung weakly to one side. His throat was parched and he longed to relieve himself of a full bladder. He considered calling for help but was too scared to. Therefore, he remained still and silent as much as he could while preparing his mind for certain death.
The door to the mysterious room creaked open at that moment and Hamza noted, from the type of creak, that it was a metal door, something he had not noted earlier. There was silence following the opening of the door and all Hamza could do was imagine that a pair of legs was making its way to him. He breathed deeply and shut his eyes under the dark cloth and waited in fearful anticipation.
The cloth was finally yanked away from him and he opened his eyes too fast only to be assaulted by the pain of bright lights piercing them. He shut them again, but not before faintly acknowledging the frame of a tall man standing before him, hands in pockets and legs apart. Slowly, Hamza’s eyes opened, and adjusted to the light as the unveiling progressed. Finally, he was able to look up at the person before him and shock filled his eyes at the towering frame of Lanre.