As the footfalls of the whispering men faded away, Ebong opened his eyes without moving his body. He had heard the whole conversation and it basically chilled his blood with dread; what children were they talking about? Who was Cyril Ndon?
Who could be behind this? What did they want? Who was Java? He wandered if it could be an enemy from the past. As a more than average active DSS agent, he had put away his own share of criminals, could this be vengeance?
He listened, holding his breath to make sure nobody was close before he twisted his body, grimacing at the sharp pain at both the front and back of his head.
How could this be happening after he’d retired? If he’d still be active, at least, he’d have had the hope that he would be missed sooner or later and steps would be taken to find him. Would Cecil be able to figure it out?
And at the thought of Cecil, his heart hurt for the pain and uncertainty she would face. He had promised to pick her up after work. Would she feel he had abandoned her? Though they’d been intimate for over a month, they’d not really spoken about what would be applicable in the future.
Mentally shaking his head, he refused to think of that now. Though he was retired, he knew he had to think like an agent to figure out what was going on. He really hoped Cecil would figure it out though.
His eyes scanned the other men lying unconscious in the room, obviously drugged, he wandered who they were and yet, something felt familiar about them.
Ebong got to his knees, ignoring the pain that seemed to be travelling through his whole body, he crawled to the nearest man, lying on his side but facing away from him.
The retired Director’s heart hammered as he reached for and turned the person to his back. Ebong gasped as he recognized Slay. And before he crawled over the room, looking at everybody’s faces, he already knew what he would find.
The dread in his chest turned to ice; someone had targeted their family, but who? And they were going for the children, he thought in alarmed dismay, what would the women do? How had this happened?
How did they pull this off?
Ebong shook out of the debilitating dread and crawled around, shaking the men awake. He shook Slay first and was glad to hear him groan, his eyes struggling to open, obviously fighting the effect of whatever drug they’d been injected with.
“You have to wake up, Slay,” he whispered fiercely into his ear. “They are going to hurt the kids and…”
“Ebong?” another whisper came from a corner of the room and the tone didn’t sound like someone only just recovering from sedation.
“PJ? You’re awake…”
“I’ve been awake for a while. When I heard you crawling around, I was confused, and just stayed quiet.”
“Okay,” Ebong whispered back with a nod, “I need to wake Slay and Morgan.”
“I heard what they said, they’re going to kidnap our kids,” PJ declared and Ebong could hear the wobbly quality of his tone. The man was frightened for his kids and wife.
“They had pictures of DJ and the kids, they had pictures of all of us!” the fear was beginning to make him hysterical.
Ebong crawled to where he still lay and looked into his eyes fiercely, “Pull yourself together and bring that sharp mind of yours to play. We need to figure this out, and we need to do something, anything, to protect our family; understand?!”
His vehemence must have gotten through to him because he nodded, even though his eyes expressed helplessness, he nodded, and sat up.
“Now, try waking Slay, I’ll work on Morgan.”
“I’m awake,” Slay groaned as his voice echoed in the empty room, he turned on the floor as though he was on his bed at home.
“Sshh! Not so loud!” Ebong admonished in a whisper, crawling to Slay’s side. He cleaned his hand on his thigh before peeling back his eyes to look in, they were dilated from the drug as expected, but he seemed to still have his wits. “They are going to kidnap the kids,” he said, and crawled to Morgan.
Slay nodded and sat up, his head light and groggy and dizzy. He shut and opened his eyes severally before he could even focus without everything seeming to float and tumble.
He looked down on himself and discovered he had no belt on. Of course, they would have taken anything on their bodies, belts, wristwatches, wallets, phones, shoes, even his wedding ring was gone.
Morgan groaned not far away from him. Slay scooted on his arse towards him, “Try sitting up and the dizziness will pass,” he advised, joining the whispering.
He could see PJ trying to wake Richard and Daniel, simultaneously.
When Morgan could sit without assistance, Ebong plunged into the matter, “Do you recognize any of these names, Java, Taurus, Ikpa, Shaggy, Polycarp, Cyril Ndon?”
Slay perked up and so did PJ, “That’s the proprietor of the children’s school, Ahead school,” PJ supplied instantly with a frown.
Ebong frowned, “They had planned to hit the man, I’m thinking a robbery, but someone named Java came along and paid them to do the same job?” he was trying to put the story together and figure it out.
“That makes no sense…” Slay begun.
“…because King Edem is responsible for this!” Morgan interrupted Slay in a fierce whisper, his legendary anger was returning.
Ebong and PJ’s gasp of horror was loud in the room.
“I thought he got life imprisonment?!” PJ cried, forgetting he was supposed to whisper.
Ebong shushed him again, his eyes boring threateningly at him. “It must be the hidden funds that had never been found,” he finally took his eyes away from PJ to comment.
“That’s how he’s paying them,” Slay added in realization.
“So, this Java is working for King Edem then,” Morgan concluded, his eyes transmitting death for Java.
Ebong frowned again, contemplating, “Just before I retired, I think there was supposed to be a new case, using an out of state agent to try and find out where King Edem hid that money, I heard it was billio…”
“Uncle PJ?” Richard groaned quite loudly and all four men shushed him fiercely.
Richard was startled into silence, his eyes widening at all the men in the room.
“We’ll all be dying soon and you insist on calling me uncle,” PJ griped in a hysterical whisper, causing fear to effuse the boy’s whole demeanor.
“Nobody is dying! Nobody is dying!” Ebong repeated in a fierce whisper, his hand slashing the air before him to emphasize his point. “PJ stop spewing rubbish!”
“If King Edem is responsible for this whole thing, then we are dead!” PJ countered, “Unless you lied about how horrid this man was when he was after Alero.”
PJ sucked in breath, obviously to continue his diatribe when Daniel groaned and turned; when his eyes opened, it fell on Richard.
Ebong sighed wearily and started crawling to Daniel to help him up, but the just recovered man shocked everyone and lunged suddenly towards Richard, grabbed the startled and terrified young man around his neck and instantly squeezed.
The men were struck numb by the turn of events, but then they scrambled over to their friend to stop a potentially catastrophic situation.
“You bastard!” Daniel spat, “You had the guts to touch my daughter…”
“Sssh!” Ebong shushed but it had no effect on Daniel who seemed beyond furious at a suffocating Richard.
“…and then you conveniently left her and went for your tra…” Daniel’s words were cut off when Morgan slapped his palm over his mouth and dragged him effortlessly from Richard.
Richard leaned weakly on the wall, still on his knees and wheezed to try and get air into his lungs.
Daniel struggled a bit to get free and attack the boy again but Morgan’s muscular arm seemed to tighten whenever he struggled.
“Calm down, Daniel, this isn’t the right time for this,” Morgan growled in his ear.
“Are you alright?” Ebong asked the wheezing boy worriedly, bending over him while PJ hovered close, Richard nodded, swallowing and trying to get words out.
Ebong pitied him, knowing what he was currently experiencing. The after effect of any sedative was thirst and then Daniel had gone and squeezed his neck, worsening the whole after effect.
Slay managed to look Daniel in the eyes, “You need to calm down,” he whispered fiercely.
Daniel allowed his shoulders to droop, he stopped struggling and Slay nodded to Morgan who slowly let him go. Daniel stood, arranging his shirt with jerky movements and murder in his eyes for Richard.
Slay saw his eyes and shook his head, “This isn’t important right now, man,” he whispered, touching his chest to hold him away from Richard.
“You only say…” Daniel started saying but was shushed furiously by PJ, Ebong, Slay and Morgan; it didn’t stop him though.
“You only say that because you don’t have a girl child,” Daniel whispered fiercely. He really was furious and the terror of the unexplainable situation they seemed to find themselves had overwhelmed him in that instant and he’d lunged at the only perceived enemy.
“They are young people, Daniel,” PJ whispered as though that solved everything.
“Let’s hear you repeat that sentence in a decade or so, when Slay’s or Morgan’s sons or even my son, hooks up with your daughters,” Daniel spat venomously, his throat unconsciously whispering since everybody was.
“We have to get out of here first for that to happen,” Slay pointed out reasonably, effectively cutting off what PJ had been about to retort.
“Have you seen a black knapsack? I was with a black knapsack?” Richard croaked worriedly, his throat was extremely dry.
Ebong, who had been exasperated with the men’s attitude, heard him and turned to help him to his feet.
“Son, they took all our stuff, phones, shoes, wristwatches, they definitely have your bag too,” he encapsulated and was privy to the widening of the boy’s eyes in obvious worry.
“You should be worried about your own pregnant daughter, Daniel, mine still have a long way to go,” PJ sneered at his friend and partner and then shut his mouth in regret when he saw everybody go still at his comment.
Morgan and Slay were watchful of Daniel’s next actions, they had no idea if PJ’s words were true but it was a heartbreaking thing to tell a father.
Daniel’s jaws had dropped, then his eyes had smoldered immediately, turning to Richard and taking a threatening move towards him, but Slay stepped forward and held him back.
“You bastard!” he whispered from over Slay’s shoulder at Richard. “You’re a good for nothing bastard and no matter what you do, you’ll never be good enough for my daughter, no one is good enough for my daughter!” Daniel spewed angrily.
Ebong felt Richard jerk backwards, his back slamming heavily on the rough wall as though he’d just been punched in the gut. He looked in the young man’s face and saw him flinch and suddenly, he realized the terrible thing Daniel had just said.
“Enough! Daniel, enough!” Ebong whispered fiercely, his eyes catching Morgan’s eyes in understanding, because Morgan had just witnessed Richard’s reaction.
PJ had witnessed it too and he unconsciously laid a calming hand on Richard’s shoulder but the boy flinched from his touch and wouldn’t look up. His back slid down the wall until he sat, quite wearily, his breath left his body in an audible sigh, heavy enough to echo in the room.
Slay saw a glint of unshed tears in Richard’s eyes and turned angrily on the now calm Daniel, “You of all people should know not to say such things to people with his background,” his tone was barely above a whisper but his anger was palpable through it.
Ebong hurriedly squat before Richard, his mind reeling and searching for what he could say to take the boy’s mind from Daniel’s harsh words; apparently PJ had the same plan.
“Hey, you seemed worried about your knapsack, what was in it, was it important?” he asked, trying to catch Richard’s eyes but he wouldn’t look at him.
“It’s not important anymore,” he murmured under his breath, his gaze pinned to the floor.
“Come on, dude, what’s in the bag? Tell us so we’ll make sure to grab it when we’re getting out of here,” PJ joked but the humor fell flat and bland.
Richard swallowed thickly, with obvious difficulty. He chewed his lips a bit and contemplated his reply; PJ and Ebong thought he’d never answer.
But then he murmured with no enthusiasm at all, considering moments ago he was worried for the bag, “I got her a ring at Belgium.”
His reply made both PJ and Ebong seat back in shock and their eyes invariably swiveled to Daniel as though to say ‘look what you’ve caused’.
Morgan put his mouth in Daniel’s ear then and whispered to only his hearing, “What would Wana say?” he asked rhetorically.
Daniel felt the slam of guilt like a choke hold around his neck. He had been spewing those things out of anger; he would have said the same thing to anybody else. But he was aware of Richard’s background, a background that was similar to that of his wife.
He’d been aware of the boy’s struggle with low self esteem and belonging, but those thoughts were practically erased from his mind when he’d been spewing his angry words.
Saying those words to Richard were tantamount to having said them to Wana and he was appalled at himself. He had always been proud of his self control but his immediate reaction had just proven otherwise.
It would be easy and true to blame it on the horrid situation they all were in, but deep down, apart from the situation, he would still have uttered those words.
He loved his daughter and truly, nobody was good enough for her, but he should never have said those damning words, especially to a guy that had been struggling all his life.
A guy he’d been told once or twice that psychologically, he still struggled with belonging to their family even after more than eight years; Richard still feared he’d only been accepted because of Wana, and he’d just proven that to him with his words.
Daniel swallowed with difficulty, licked his dry lips and was about to apologize when pandemonium erupted from another part of the house.
The sudden shouting got all the men’s attention, they got to their feet and moved close to the iron bars to hear better…all except Richard.
He looked like a man that had lost everything; like he had lost the will to live.
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
Your comments bring out the beauty in our stories. Have your say in the comment box below. To share our story, click on the Facebook share button or on the twitter button.
Follow our twitter handle @lagosconvo