“Get in the car! Driver’s seat!” Mike ordered as he shoved Zaneta with his pistol while remotely unlocking the same BMW she and Zach had come in. The brand was marred for life in her perception.
“Put both hands where I can see them” Mike said.
His phone began to ring as Zaneta sat behind the wheel. As Mike took out his phone to take the call, she placed a call of her own and quickly placed the phone face-down on her laps before putting both hands on the steering wheel.
“Matilda…. Yes, I have the girl….No jokes….Are your papers ready? ……. There’s no going back now. See you soon” He said and hung up.
Zack was at the foot of the stairs when his phone rang. He took one look, silenced it and put it back in his pocket. He moved swiftly to the door which Mike had left ajar. He took one quick peek. He didn’t have a clear shot, could not possibly have one without stepping into sight himself.
In one flick, he turned on the flood lights and turned off the lights in the hall and living room.
Mike responded immediately, dragging Zaneta out of the car and standing her up in front of him while shoving his pistol painfully in her side making her scream as her phone fell to the gravel.
The main door swung wide open.
“Don’t be silly, Mike” Zach shouted from inside the house. He’d kicked the door open.
“No, dawg! You do NOT be unfortunate” Mike shouted back.
“You are not smart enough to pull this off, man. Give it up!”
“No, man. There’s no going back. Don’t piss me off!”
“You pissed me off already by trying to drug me. But we can settle this quietly and that is why I haven’t called Malik or the General. It’s just me and you, man”
“Listen to yourself! You gave up a life with the next VP’s daughter to be an overpaid errand boy to some have-been. Get a life, dawg!” Mike said laughing.
“Maybe I don’t have one, Mike, but if you do this, you will lose yours”
“You were smart enough to know I drugged your drink, I see that now. I believe you are smart enough to see I have the advantage here. I have the girl” he said digging the pistol into Zaneta’s side again making her yell. Now she was crying.
“Mike, can we just cool?” Zach said, he could not take the screams and crying anymore. Mike had a point, he had the advantage.
“Come out and lay down your weapon then we can talk”
Zach thought about it a bit then said “Ok, I’m coming out”. He stepped out with his hands up, pistol hanging on his right thumb, safety on, facing downwards.
Mike moved his pistol to Zaneta’s temple. “No tricks, bro. I swear I’ll kill her” he said, firmly using Zaneta as a human shield.
“No tricks” Zach replied, letting his pistol drop to the lawn.
“Now kick it away” Mike ordered.
Zach’s kick sent the pistol spinning into the flower bed.
“Good. So this is how this is going to go down. I’m going to lock the lovely Zaneta here in the trunk to wait while you and I would go back inside to allow you administer some good old downer to yourself and sleep off this terrible episode of your miserable life
“Only because, I’m nice, dawg, I’m going to let you live and you claim I drugged you by the time your puppet masters hear about this.”
Zach made no response, but his eyes never left Mike and Zaneta.
Mike remotely unlocked the trunk of the 5 Series, it came up with a smooth mechanical purr.
“Ok, Princess, let’s get you settled in. If your boyfriend makes it snappy, I will be back for you soon and we will be on our way to freedom in no time, I promise” Mike said, pushing Zaneta towards the back of the vehicle with his gun now trained on Zack.
At the trunk, Zaneta made eye contact with Zach, he nodded at her almost imperceptibly, it was enough to renew her hope. She climbed into the trunk, and curled up, fighting to keep calm. She was glad she was not claustrophobic, but being locked in the trunk of a car by an armed mad-man, though quite spacious and clean, was still very unpleasant.
The trunk shut above her and darkness enveloped her. She cussed as she realised she had lost her phone in the commotion. Luckily, she had her Apple watch on.
“Ok, Zach. It’s just you and I now, like you wanted” he said walking towards Zach, pistol in both hands for a solid shot at Zach’s chest.
“Why are you doing this?” Zach asked, letting his hands fall slowly to his side, in a bid to douse the tension.
“Money! $5 million” he said stopping a few feet away from Zach.
Zach’s eyes widened.
Mike laughed, “A tidy little sum, yeah? While you were busy taking orders, I found someone on the inside who set this up for me. She works with Moloku, I knew her from back in the day. If you weren’t so -” he was saying when his blood suddenly burst forth, splashing all over Zach.
It took a whole second for Zach to compute what had just happened, quickly he hit the ground as Mike growled then turned in the direction from which he had been hit.
Zach dove swiftly for the flower bed when Mike took another shot to the chest; he fired two futile rounds into the night air as he crumbled to his knees, gagging on his own blood.
Zach knew the general direction of the sniper that had taken the shots, but was not about to go up against him. He stayed low amidst the flowers, found his pistol, took the safety off and cocked it.
“This whole operation just went to hell” he thought “How the hell did a sniper come into this? How the hell did he find us?“
He peered into the darkness beyond the premises. He saw nothing. Now he regretted turning on the flood lights. He wondered if he could wait it out, but then, what would happen at the end of the wait? Daylight didn’t guarantee the position of the sniper would be revealed, he was surely smarter than that. Another issue was Zaneta – she was locked in the trunk. He had to get her out.
“But first” he said, pulled out his phone and dialled Malik’s number making sure to reduce his screen brightness to the minimum and keeping the phone as close to the ground as possible.
“Yes?” Malik answered
“We have a sniper outside the perimeter. Mike is dead” he said, taking a look at Mike’s body now sprawled on the lawn.
“You are kidding, right?”
“I wish I was”
“Zach, I advise you get the hell out of there. Leave the girl. Go! Now!” Malik said and was gone.
Zach could not believe he had been left out to dry just like that.
He looked at Mike’s lifeless body and spotted the BMW’s key beside it. Quickly, he pulled up his media player, selected Bob Marley’s ‘Could You Be Loved’, pushed the music to the highest volume, threw the screen brightness to maximum and flung the phone into another flower bed by the fence. He heard two bullets rip into the flowers sending petals and leaves into the air.
Before things settled down, he dashed out of the flower bed, slid to the floor beside Mike, swooping up the car key then made quick rolls to the car. He heard 2 bullets hit the lawn and gravel along the path to the car. Panting, he leaned against the car.
He knew he had to get in and drive off somehow without getting shot. Beside him on the ground, he spotted Zaneta’s phone. It was broken and pretty much done in, definitely trampled upon in the earlier stand-off.
Zach wondered who his opponent was. He was pretty good, not perfect with rifle, but he was doing a good job controlling the terrain. And since he hadn’t fired until Zaneta was ‘safely’ in the trunk, Zach had come to the conclusion this was likely another AlphaTrag operative. The fact that he hadn’t shot at the car for the past minute that Zach had leaned against it lent Zach’s theory more credibility in his mind.
“He doesn’t want to hurt Zaneta, he won’t shoot the car…..I hope” Zach whispered to himself, grabbed the driver’s door handle, yanked the door open, slid to a spot beside the open door, reached in and started the car. He paused and listened. Nothing happened. With a little more hope than he’d begun with, he slid into the driver’s seat. Keeping his head down, he engaged the gear and gunned the engine. He could hear Zaneta scream and trash around in the trunk as the tyres squealed and shot gravel in every direction.
Zach kept the car on track – in the direction of the gates. In less than a minute he spotted the wooden country-side type gate the premises had. They had high tech perimeter fencing that did the real work. Zach was thankful it was not a solid metal gate as he blasted through it, yanked the steering right and tore up the dusty road to town.
Not too far up the road, Zach slammed the brakes as he came upon a red Accord coupe parked across the road.
“Fucking hell!” he swore as the BMW skid to a stop on the dirt road.
The strategy at play was more than Zach had expected. The particular spot where the Accord was parked was the only spot along the road where he could not have driven around it. One side of the road seemed to have given way in a recent flood.
A second inspection revealed the car was empty.
“Could the keys be in?” he thought, then almost laughed at himself for the naive optimism he had just shown. “Time to get off the road” he said, grabbed his pistol and was about getting off when his window suddenly shattered and a rifle butt grazed his head.
He retaliated by kicking the door out sending the assailant a few feet backward. Seeing his advantage, he made to dash out of the car, pistol first but saw the man raise his rifle in preparation to fire, Zach pulled the door shut and tried to scramble away as a rain of bullets hit the side of car.
On his back, across both front seats, he fired 3 successive shots, hoping to hit the man or discourage him from coming closer, then opened the front passenger door rolled to the ground and fired 2 shots across the undercarriage. One struck the man in the leg making him howl in pain. In a flash, Zach was in front of the BMW trying to get in a kill shot, but the guy, even with an injured leg was fast and had ducked behind the trunk.
Zach leaned against the front of the BMW, its engine still running, now quite warm from the short journey. He looked at the Honda across the road and wondered why he hadn’t tried to ram it. Zaneta would have been fine in the trunk. He looked at his arm, it was bleeding. His face was on fire from the glass shards. He knew he had got the guy too – in the leg, but the guy still had the bigger gun and could cut him to pieces if he as much as made one wrong move.
Zach looked under the car once more, hoping to get in another leg shot when he realised the guy was not there. As he pushed away from the car, he felt it bounce before he heard the guy’s feet on the roof. Zach’s reaction was a fraction too slow, by the time he stood up to counter the guy’s move, he found himself staring into the nozzle of the guy’s rifle.
“Drop it!” the man said in a tone that told Zach to do just that.
For the second time in one awful night, Zach dropped his pistol, this time, on the hood of the BMW.
The tall man stepped down onto the hood and kicked the pistol on the road side.
“Turn around” he said.
Zach took a deep breath, looked the man in the eyes and said “Fuck you!”, grabbed the man’s legs and brought him smashing down into the windscreen of the car, then down to the front of the hood before punching his jaw.
The move had come as a surprise to the man who had lost his grip of the rifle when the air had been knocked out of him by his fall on the windscreen. The punch to his jaw, though solid, woke something up in him as he rose his feet and planted them squarely on Zach’s already bloodied cheek.
The pain was blinding making Zach stagger backwards a few steps. It felt like the fire on his face had just been refuelled. The shards in his cheek had been driven deeper. He was trying to regain his composure for the fight when he heard a gunshot.
“One more stupid move and I’ll blow your head off” the man said.
Zach could see the man with a pistol pointed at him. He suddenly realised he was tired of people pointing guns at him. This man had come for Zaneta, let him have her and be gone. No one else had to die. He surrendered.
The man limped forward and tossed a pair of handcuffs at Zach, “Put those on” he said.
Zach snapped on the cuffs and waited.
Satisfied, the man reached into the car, tuned it off and took the key, then went to the truck and opened it. Zaneta lunged at him with the wheel spanner she had picked up and held in anticipation.
The man saw the spanner coming and grabbed Zaneta’s arm in mid-air. “Hey, tiger! I’m on your side” he said but Zaneta was still trashing.
“Zaneta! Calm down, your Dad’s people sent him” Zaneta heard Zach say. She looked around shocked and relieved. She let the man help her out of the trunk as he threw the spanner back in.
Zach stepped towards the back of the car slowly, the man was still armed and he didn’t want to spook him. “Are you alright?” he asked Zaneta.
She looked at him and nodded then rushed to the side of the road and threw up, soiling her dress. Both men drew closer.
“We need to get her back to the house, she needs water” Zach said. The man threw him a funny look but accented.
“Let’s go” he said, pointing his pistol at Zach.
He marched Zach to the Accord, which Zach was not certain was Zaneta’s, and asked he got in the trunk.
“Really now? My hands are cuffed” Zach protested.
“Shut up and get in buddy” he snapped.
Zach obeyed as Zaneta approached. The man shut Zach in, then turned to Zaneta. “Let’s get you freshened up and you can be on your way. I’ll call to have a plane ready for you at the airport”
“Thank you, Sir. And what about him?” Zaneta asked nodding at the shut trunk of her Accord.
“My orders are to bring him in” he replied, helping her into the passenger seat of the Accord.
They drove in silence back to the mansion. Zaneta went straight to the guest room where she had been held and got in the shower while the man stood guard at the main door. He had asked her to hurry up, reinforcements may be on the way.
“How did you find me?” Zaneta asked as she walked towards Zach’s XC60
The man, who had introduced himself as Henry had given her keys to the SUV, instructing that she drive closely behind him till they got back to the city where they would part ways – she to the airport, he to someplace he could not disclose.
“It was easier than I expected” he said without emotion, “I came to the last known place you were sighted and waited for a chopper. Once a chopper landed, I found the Pilot and he sang like a parrot. His information led me here. I set up outside the grounds and waited for my opportunity. That one gave it to me” he said pointing at Mike’s body which he had moved to a wall and covered with some tarp.
“Thank you, Henry” Zaneta said, climbed into the SUV and switched it on. “Your leg” She added, looking at Henry’s blood soaked trousers just above the ankle.
“Flea bite” Henry said dismissively. It was a graze and he’d bound it up earlier while Zaneta prepared.
As Henry turned, his phone rang and he pulled it out. He spoke into it for a bit, turned around and handed it to Zaneta.
“He wants to speak with you”
Zaneta took the phone, “Hello” she said.
“Zaneta!” it was Tunji.
“Uncle Tunji” Zaneta said.
“I’m glad you are fine. I have sent a Jet for you. Do as Henry tells you and you will be here in no time” he said.
“How’s my dad?” she asked.
“In an interview. He will call you once he gets out and we will both be at the airport waiting for you”
“See you soon” Tunji said
“Wait, what happens to Zach?” she asked, her eyes going to the trunk of her Accord.
“I don’t know, dear. Really, I don’t. Just come back home” Tunji said and was gone.
Zaneta handed the phone back to Henry.
“Shall we?” he asked.
“Yes, thank you” she replied.
Henry walked, limping slightly to the Accord and drove off. Zaneta followed.
At a lonely spot on the highway, Henry pulled off to the shoulder and Zaneta followed suit.
Henry got off and walked towards her.
“So, you take the fork to the left, straight to a set of traffic lights, take a right and the airport will be on your left after a few kilometres. At the airport ask for the Blue Pacific hangar. Your crew is waiting”
“Left, right then look to my left”
“That’s right. But you’ll have to go turn around after the airport to get on the correct side of the freeway”
“Thank you, Henry. How about you?” she asked.
“I await my orders. Have a safe flight” he said and walked back to the car.
Zaneta indicated and got on her way.
She knew in her heart that Tunji had lied to her earlier.
Henry was listening to Tunji and Lanre on the phone. Both men were together on speaker phone doing a debrief of the operation.
“Basically, what I need to get out of him is the content of the disc he found in the Professor’s safe?”
“Yes. I know he’s got a copy. I need it” Tunji said.
Henry nodded in the comfortable coolness of the Accord’s leather interior. He had reclined his seat some, seatbelt on with the engine and AC running.
The hood of the blue XC60 was a few feet away by the time Henry noticed it, the headlamps were off, it was the parking lamps and colour that gave it away. Reflexively he dropped the phone and put his hands over his head just in time for the collision.
The noise was deafening.
The XC60 struck the Accord’s side at over 60km/hr completely smashing in the driver’s side. It had about 700lbs in weight over the Honda Accord Coupe 2014, it was a clear case of no-contest. The Honda was thrown further off the road and into the vegetation.
It took about half a minute for Zaneta to regain her composure. She had taken quite a while to make up her mind and plan her move, but once it was made up, she knew exactly what to do.
She had turned around and headed back to the point where she had left Henry in her car. She remembered Zach saying the Volvo SUV was built like a tank, she decided the vehicle was her best chance at a weapon that would deliver in a flash. She had decided on a collision.
Though she had braced for it, turning off her lamps on the final stretch, she had still felt the impact of the collision. As quickly as she could manage, she backed up the Volvo and parked it properly on the road shoulder, shielding the Honda from view of any passer-by on the road.
She got off, hurried to the Accord. Her head was pounding and her lips were cold and shivering but she knew it would pass. She went around to the passenger door and pulled at the handle. It was locked.
“Shit” she cussed.
She looked around for a rock, found one and hauled it with all her strength at the passenger door window. It came down in a rain of glass. She moved up to it and opened the door from the inside and got in.
Henry was moaning, barely conscious.
“I’m so sorry, Henry” she said, trying not to panic. The fact that he was alive was a relief to her. She had purposely kept her collision speed at 60km/hr so as not to kill the occupant of the car on impact. She’d once seen something like that in a movie.
She turned off the ignition and withdrew the key, exited, ran to the trunk and opened it.
Zach was still, curled up in a ball. She wasn’t sure he was breathing. He could have suffocated or been mortally injured in the crash. She noticed blood on his shirt and in the trunk.
“Zach!” she said, touching him tentatively.
No response of any sort.
“Zach!” she called again, this time shaking him vigorously.
He moaned, turned and blinked at the light from the trunk lamp.
“Zach! Please, get up, we have to go”
“Shit, Zaneta!” he exclaimed. “What happened?” he asked.
“Just get out, Ok?” she pled.
He crawled out of the trunk and lost his footing, crashing into her, she couldn’t support his weight and they both fell to the ground.
“Crap!” Zach moaned. “I need the keys for these” he said, showing her his cuffed wrists.
“Ok” Zaneta said, rose and went back into the car. She didn’t like having to search Henry who was still moaning, but she did and came up with what looked like the right key.
She hurried back to Zach and handed it to him where he sat leaning against the rear bumper of the Accord. He took the key and undid the cuffs, tossed them away and rose to his feet slowly.
“Let’s go” she said yet again.
“To where?” Zach asked.
“We need to get away from here at least” Zaneta said, arms flailing.
He could tell she was freaking out. “Get his phone” he said, as he walked towards the SUV.
“Not again” she said, about having to search Henry again.
It took her a while to find the phone. She would not have found it if it hadn’t rung from under the driver’s seat. She finally reached it, looked at the screen and recognised the caller; “Uncle Tunji” she muttered, then ran back to the XC60 and got in the driver’s seat. Zach was seated in the front passenger seat.
“Relax, Zaneta. I will let you know when to freak out” he said with a steady look at her. She nodded then handed him the phone. He pulled her close and kissed her. “Thank you” he said.
“Where to?” she asked, catching her breath as she moved the vehicle off.
“Keep heading straight. Let me make a quick phone call” Zach said.
He called Bizi.
“Hello” Bizi said, clearly woken from sleep by the call.
“Thanks for the tip. The heat came and it came down hard. I’m a little beat up. I need to get off the grid”
“Where are you?”
“Still in PH”
“I’ll push you an address, but it will cost you”
“Send to this phone”
“Has to be here” Zach said as they pulled up before a nice looking building with a black gate.
With Zaneta’s card they had withdrawn some cash at an ATM since Bizi had said he would need cash and he had none on him. His stuff was still at the mansion.
“Get to the airport, babe, I’ll be safe here for a while”
“Tell me again why you don’t want me to go with you” she protested. They had argued about going off the grid together. Zach was not having it.
“Your dad won’t stop coming for you, and you know it. Go be with him. When the heat cools, I will find you, I promise” he said.
“Ok. Keep this” she said, handing him her ATM card, “4765” she added.
“Why are you doing all this for me, Z?”
“I don’t know, Zach. I hope I’m not making a mistake”
About half an hour later, Zaneta was welcomed by her private crew and led aboard a Jet.
“We were worried about you for a while, ma’am” the pilot said.
“I’m sorry, I lost my way and I don’t have a phone on me” she said.
“Glad to have you on board” the handsome young man said.
“Let my dad know we are on our way” she said as she settled into her seat.