Everything was falling into place now for Baban. The men on kulunix were doing exactly what he wanted; maybe a little more. Soldiers had been killed and a few of the men had been killed but it was getting attention from the government. But he knew it was just for the meantime, this needed to be the beginning of many more attacks. He had leaked a few pictures and videos to reporters and a few people were talking about the ongoing incident. He needed more than a few people, he needed the whole nation talking about these new terrorists. He needed men who would pay to have his drug and his sponsors needed the government to buy weapons. Everything was good except for one missing man; Doctor Coker.
Where the hell was he? He had alerted his sponsors and they had put a flag on his name so he could not leave the country.
Dongo had just returned from his house and from the look on his face he could tell he didn’t have great news.
“What did you find?” Baban asked Dongo.
“Nothing?” Dongo said.
“What do you mean you found nothing?”
“I didn’t find Coker or his family.”
“They are gone?”
“That’s the crazy thing, it doesn’t look they’ve gone anywhere. Their car is still in the driveway, their passports are all in place, ATM cards too.”
“I don’t understand.” Baban said.
He really didn’t. If Coker didn’t take anything there was no way he could escape. Except he had help.
“Sir,” Dongo said. “Do you know where he could be?”
“If I knew where he was would I be here worrying?”
He paused then said. “Maybe your friends do.”
Baban raised his eyebrows. “Friends?”
“Yes sir. The general and his friends. They know all about this project and seeing what is happening now they must see how profitable it is.”
“Yes of course they see how profitable it is, that’s why we’re in business.”
“What if they wanted to eliminate the middle man and want the drug for themselves?”
Baban stood and began to pace. “There’s no way they would do that; they won’t betray me like that. They get their profit from their gun sales and I handle the drugs; that was our deal.”
“And you think they won’t stab you in the back if they get the chance?”
Baban shook his head, there was no way they would do that to him. He was the one that brought them this business in the first place, why would they steal from him? Money! They would do anything for money and so would he.
If their plan was to hurt him, he would hurt them first.
“Can you find out for sure if they have Coker?” Baban asked.
“I’m already on it.”
He had to make plans now he had the chance. He knew General Babatunde was smart and wouldn’t waste time in putting a mark on him once they decided he wasn’t of use anymore. And there was Fauziat whom the General had already threatened already. All of a sudden things didn’t look so good anymore.
“Sir, there’s also the problem of the girl we have here and Mark who we haven’t found yet.” Dongo said.
Baban slammed his hand on the table. There was only so much his brain could attend to at once.
“I don’t need the girl anymore, I have more problems.” Baban said.
“He doesn’t know anything or he would have said something by now.”
Dongo turned to leave. “Do you want me to take care of the girl?”
“No, I will do it myself.”
He had started the day with hope but just one conversation was sending his day spiralling to hell. I am a warrior! He wasn’t where he was but crumbling under problems, he would solve it all one by one. Starting with killing the girl.
The car spluttered again and the engine went off. Mark knew the car wasn’t coming back to life this time around, there was no point pushing it. He beckoned to Mohammed and they exited the car. He stuffed his pocket with the kulunix the Indian Baban had forced him to take and Mohammed carried the flask containing the antidote the doctor had given him. He cast a final look at the car and they began to walk towards the camp.
He expected to meet soldiers on the way but they were not at their posts. He could see the camp ahead; everything looked the same but something was strange about what he was looking at. It did not matter now that he knew who was holding Jumai and who was behind what happened with Sule. He closed his eyes and shook off the thought of Professor Tanko’s smiling face as he made promises to help WAAP.
“Uncle look!” Mohammed shouted and pointed.
Mark looked at the direction Mohammed’s finger was pointed to, on the floor a few feet off the road a man lay prostrate on the floor. Mark ran up to the man and knelt beside him. He checked the man’s pulse, he was dead. He looked exactly like the man he and Jumai had found behind one the buildings. This was kulunix. Was there an outbreak on the camp?
“Let’s hurry Mohammed.” Mark said.
They ran as fast as they could to the camp. As soon as they entered the camp Mark knew something major was wrong. He looked around and saw similar sights like they had seen on the way; bodies laid prostrate on the floor. There was a chance some of them were not dead but he couldn’t do much on his own, he needed help.
He ran towards the office area. If there was an outbreak of kulunix, there was a good chance that the staff were dead. He swallowed at the thought.
He turned around a corner and stopped! It looked like a full battle had just finished here. There were dead bodies lying on the floor; soldiers and men from the camp. Mark’s blood boiled at the sight. What had Professor Tanko done? This wasn’t just about Jumai, the man had killed men just to test run a drug? There were still a few men running around the offices, it was obvious they were on Kulunix. It was possible there were people locked inside those buildings or maybe they had escaped. He had to do something about this.
He removed his phone and took a few pictures and uploaded them online; it was time to expose Professor Tanko.
He tagged the first picture; ‘This is what this man would do to test run a drug.’
He tagged a few online newspapers but he knew it wouldn’t catch on until he mentioned who the ‘man’ was. Professor Tanko had Jumai, it was not smart to give up all his leverage.
He uploaded more pictures telling the story but not mentioning the name. One of the newspapers sent him a message privately, they wanted to know who the man was. He shook his head, he still had to save Jumai.
He scrolled through his contacts and stopped on Professor Tanko’s number. He dialled the number.
“Mister Mark, where have you been? We have been worried.” Professor Tanko said as soon as he answered the call.
“Professor, you can drop the act, I know who you are and what you are doing, Baban.”
The professor stayed quiet for a few seconds then said, his voice very cold. “If you know who I am then you should know I have Jumai and I am very dangerous.”
“Is she okay?” Mark asked, fear getting the better of him.
“She is okay, for now. You do anything stupid and she is dead.”
“Oh yeah, that’s what I called about. I have started talking about you to the press but I haven’t mentioned your name but I can’t keep that secret very long.”
“I already told you, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Release Jumai and you have my word I won’t be giving the newspapers already calling me your name.”
“I can arrange that.”
“And on time because these newspapers are already mounting pressure.”
“I’m one hour away from the camp.” Professor Tanko said. “I will come with Jumai and you will hand over all you have on me. Do we have a deal?”
Mark nodded. “Yes we do.” He ended the call.
Mark looked at his watch, he had one hour to make a plan that will leave him alive. He knew Professor Tanko was lying, there was no way he would hand over Jumai and let him go with the knowledge that he had. In truth he didn’t have hard evidence against Professor Tanko, but he could get his evidence. If he could get news men secretly filming the exchange, he would have evidence that Professor Tanko kidnapped Jumai and that way he would survive. The Professor would not want to worsen his case by killing him on camera. Hopefully he wouldn’t.
He had a lot of calls to make. He hoped he could get the cameras here before one hour. More importantly he hoped he would still be alive in one hour.
“How far out are you?” Baban asked.
“I’m at the camp already.” Dongo’s reply came over the phone.
“If you don’t pick him up please don’t come back here. I want him alive in case he has told someone else. But if taking him alive will allow him escape then by all means put a bullet in his head. I want him here in thirty minutes, dead or alive.”
He ended the call and smiled. The small fool threatened him? He was already dealing with threats before the boy was born. Once the boy was here, he could die next to his girlfriend. That was the second problem almost solved. Now he had to think of what to do with his back-stabbing partners.
The door opened and General Babatunde happened.
“Speak of the Devil.” Baban mumbled.
“What did you say?” General Babatunde asked.
Baban faked his best smile. “I wasn’t expecting you here today General.”
“Forget the niceties, we know what you’re doing and it’s not going to work.”
“What are you talking about?” Baban asked, he was truly confused.
“Your doctor, he suddenly fell off the radar now when his creation is finally working, coincidence?”
“You cannot hide him for long. What would you tell us? He escaped? He’s dead?”
“What is this? Some sort of reverse thing? You have my scientist and now you accuse me of hiding him?”
General Babatunde laughed. “So that’s the angle you want to play? We have him? For what?”
“So you can have all the business. If you have the scientist, you don’t need me.”
“Hmm, that is actually very true. When we find the scientist, we will kill you and we will have all the business.”
“Are you saying…?”
Their phones rang at the same time, stopping Baban in the middle of his question. General Babatunde walked to a corner of the room and answered his call.
Baban answered his.
“Dongo, do you have him?”
“Yes sir, I do.”
Baban sighed, finally. “Is he alive?”
“Yes he is, a little unconscious though.”
“A little unconscious? What does that even…never mind. Get here fast!”
Baban ended his call and saw the general staring at him.
“Who is Mark Ademola?” General Babatunde.
“He’s nobody. He works for the charity people. Why do you ask?”
“Well, your ‘nobody’ is getting attention on social media telling people about a certain man testing drugs in IDP camps.”
“What?” The bastard. “Did he mention my name?”
“I’m not your press secretary. The important question is, did you know about him and did nothing about it? Or is this part of your plan to deceive us?”
“My guy is bringing the boy in now. He’s not a problem to you or to me.” Baban said. “And about the doctor, I don’t have him. I actually thought you did.”
The door opened and Dongo pushed Mark in, gagged, hands tied and blindfolded.
“That was so fast.” Baban said.
“This is the boy?” General Babatunde asked.
The general looked Mark over then removed his blindfold and gag.
“How did he find out about you?” General Babatunde asked.
“I don’t know.”
“He found Doctor Coker.” Dongo said.
“He has a very low threshold for pain, he told me everything before I landed the second punch.” Dongo said.
“Where is Coker?” General Babatunde asked.
“He doesn’t know for sure but I can find him.” Dongo replied.
“Okay then. We have the boy, we will have Coker soon and the government is already interested in talking to us.” General Babatunde said then turned to Baban. “I think your work is done.”
“What?” Baban knew what that statement meant but there was no way General Babatunde would kill him in his own place, surrounded by his own men.
“Face it Tanko, you are of no use anymore. You are actually a liability right now.”
Baban laughed nervously. “You will kill me here? Among my men?”
General Babatunde smiled and turned around. “Soldier, handle this, will you?”
Soldier? Baban looked around and turned on time to see Dongo point the gun to his head. No way!
“Dongo, you? You are my right hand man, we made plans together.”
“I’m sorry, I have my orders.”
The door opened as the general walked out and Baban saw the number of men outside, there was no way out of this for him.
“Dongo, please I have…”
The gunshot rang through the room and Baban’s body fell at Mark’s feet.
Mark crashed into the room and for a few seconds he kept his face on the ground. He was dead for sure now. They had not hesitated to kill Professor Tanko who he assumed was the person to fight all along, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill him. He was stupid, so stupid. He shouldn’t have been caught. Now he was going to die, so would Jumai and the poor doctor and his family. He was so stupid.
He felt a touch on his back and he flinched.
He raised his head. “Jumai?”
He hugged her tight and held her for what looked like an eternity but still it wasn’t enough. He was never going to let her go. The men who would kill her would have to pry her away from his dead cold hands.
“Mark?” Jumai gently released herself from his hug.
“Are you okay?” Mark asked, looking her over.
“Hmhmm.” She said, tears forming in her eyes.
He pulled her closer and rocked her. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
They sat in silence for about five minutes. Mark wondered why this had happened to him of all people. His life was simple. He helped people for a living and now most of the people he had spent his time helping were dead or dying. Where are the women? He had not considered that, he could only hope they were okay. His boss, Jumai’s father, the whole team, they were all somewhere unaware that he and Jumai were about to die. Nobody would miss him but Jumai, she had people; parents, a fiancé. She shouldn’t die like this. She won’t die like this.
“What are you doing?” Jumai asked.
“What? Nothing, I haven’t even moved.”
“Something about you just changed and I have a bad feeling you are about to do something stupid.”
“Well, it’s true I want to do something stupid but I can’t even think of any stupid thing to do right now.”
“You don’t have to do anything. I’ve made my peace with God and myself, I already know I’m going to die. I’m just glad to see you again before that happens.”
“You are not going to die. I will get you out of here even if it’s the last thing I do.”
“That sounds heroic and stuff but except you’re ‘the Hulk’ and you can transform into a power machine, I don’t see that happening.”
Mark laughed. “Don’t make me laugh Jumai, I need to think right now. Although if I could transform I would have because I am very angry right now.”
“Can we just sit and wait for them? At least I will have the comfort of knowing I died with someone who loved me.”
Mark looked at her. “Love? I never said I loved you.”
“Are you saying you don’t?”
Mark pulled her closer. “Remember Faruk? He’s the reason…”
“Faruk, your fiancé?”
“What?” Jumai laughed. “You actually believed that?”
“What are you saying?”
“I don’t have a fiancé, I was just messing with you.”
Mark chuckled, this was great news. If only they were not about to die.
“You were messing with me…I am very angry right now.” Mark said. “Why can’t I just transform into the green monster already?”
“I think it is money they call the green monster actually.”
“Do you really want to argue that right now? The Hulk is the…” Mark stopped and dipped his hand inside his pocket and brought out a pill. “Oh my God, I can actually transform.”
“What are you talking about?” Jumai asked.
“This is the pill Sule took, it is called Kulunix.” Mark said. “I can actually transform.”
“Wait a minute, what are you talking about?”
“If I take the pill, I’ll get the super strength that can break walls and fight off the men outside.”
“No, no Mark. No, you won’t do something that stupid.”
“So this is the stupid thing I should have thought about since?” He took Jumai’s hand. “We can’t just wait here and die. I can’t just watch you die or watch you watch me die.”
“Sule died from this thing.”
Mark sighed, that was true. Doctor Coker told hime Sule died and so had many other men who used the drug. But he had to take the chance.
And there was an antidote!
“There’s an antidote. It is back at the camp but we can maybe get there before…”
“No Mark,” She walked away from him. “You won’t do this.”
Mark knew there was no way she would be convinced but he also knew there was no other way to get out of this. He looked at the pill, it was a symbol of hope and a death warrant at the same time. His heart was racing now, he didn’t want to die, he realised. If he waited any longer he would lose the courage to do it. He threw the pill into his mouth and swallowed it.
He walked over to Jumai and stood in front of her. She looked away from him in protest. If only she knew it was done. He looked at her and smiled, she was worth dying for. He brushed away stray hair strands from her face and she looked up at him with teary eyes. He leaned in and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around him and held him tight and his heart broke.
Why did things get good when they were about to get bad?
He felt a pull on his stomach and his eyes went dim; the drug was taking effect. That was it; his fate was sealed. It was time to be the hero.