Thirty-one years ago, Emeka’s mother had had a child out of wedlock. The shame and the struggle for survival had caused her to leave her home and reside in a village particularly far away from her relations. She stopped in this strange village to live a quiet life and bring up her child; but she met a man who fell in love with her and married her according to the custom of the village.
Immediately after the union, the couple decided to leave this village too for the city; Emeka did not deserve to grow up in a community of people who might later educate him on a history he wasn’t supposed to learn; for Emeka’s mother and her husband had agreed to hide the fact that the child was a bastard.
In the city, however, Emeka’s parents decided to change his name to Christopher for security reasons. The little innocent Emeka became Christopher Oka. Fifteen years passed and the family increased from three to five members – three males and two females. It was a happy family; Mr Oka treated Emeka like a son, even Vincent and Margaret considered him a fully legitimate big brother. Everything went on fine with the family until Christopher, now seventeen years old, stumbled upon the truth behind his existence. He confronted no one else about this discovery, and he refused to let his feelings show. He disappeared from the house early the next morning. No one knew his whereabouts, not even his mother; and every search for Christopher proved abortive.
But unknown to the Okas, their Christopher had joined one of the dreaded gangs far away in Lagos.
Within the same month of Christopher’s disappearance, killers had broken into his parents’ house and brutally killed everyone. Mr and Mrs Oka, Vincent Oka and Margaret Oka – they were all slaughtered in cold blood.
Christopher’s return thirteen years later set off a more brutal chain reaction.
“Be careful, Christopher is armed and dangerous,” came the warning from the mobile phone, “He can kill you all without blinking an eye. Approach him with utmost caution. Take any careless action and you will become corpses in an instant.” The phone was put on speakers as the three men listened to the instructions.
“How do we identify him? We don’t even know what he looks like. Why don’t you send a picture of him to this phone so that we can know exactly who we are after.”
“No one really knows what he looks like, not even me or The Boss. All you have to rely on for now is the information you have been given about him. I’ll call you later.”
About an hour later, the call came in again.
“Where are you guys?” The voice sounded more urgent.
“We are still at the entrance of Tafawa Balewa Square, we are searching for the bearded man in the red cap. We’ve not seen anyone who fits the description so far.”
“Forget about TBS, he’s no more there; and stop searching for just a bearded man. A new intel just got to me; Chris is not only bearded. He is now spotted in Shoprite at Ikeja. Go there now! Call back when you get there, one of our operatives will be watching him until you arrive.”
The three men rushed back into the Hilux with a tinted glass and drove away.
Five minutes later, a bearded man in a red cap came out of TBS.
They arrived at Shoprite about another hour later; luckily for them, the Lagos traffic was at the barest minimum at this time. The men placed a call and informed their instructor that they were at the location.
“Good,” said the voice from the other end, “You arrived right on time. In about ten minutes, Christopher and an elderly man will come out. Christopher is the bearded one dressed in a blue pair of jeans, a customised T-shirt bearing a picture of Mr Incredible. His hair is tainted brown and he’s wearing dark glasses.”
“What about the old man? How is he dressed?”
“He’s dressed casually in a simple shirt and a pair of trousers. Don’t concern yourselves with the elderly man; your job is more concerned with Christopher. You have to know that Christopher is reputed to be a great deceiver. He’s a master of disguise. Grab him immediately and make sure you disarm him if he has a weapon; and like I already said, be very careful around him. Don’t you believe anything that comes out of his mouth. Remember, his birth name is also Emeka, don’t be deceived. Bring him to the address given to you as soon as you have him.”
“What should we do about the elderly man?”
“The odd variable,” observed the instructor from the other end, “I should tell you to leave and not bother yourselves about him because our major goal is to apprehend Christopher, but we don’t know who he is to Christopher or what he knows. Take him but don’t hurt him. Bring both of them in; we’ll question the elderly man to know what he knows. Good luck to you. Call me only when you get to the destination.” The call was cancelled.
The men waited for another ten minutes before they spotted the targets as they came out of the big gate. Two of the waiting men came out of the Hilux, drew out their pistols and walked casually towards the approaching men. No one paid them any attention because they had expertly concealed the guns within them, for they well aware of the chaos the knowledge of their pistols might cause, and that might lead to the escape of the target once again. This was a mission they could not afford to get foiled due to their own crass stupidity, or carelessness. The capture of Christopher was more important than their own lives. Now that the location of this very elusive man had been offered them on a platter of gold, all they had to do was take him to the location alive and they would become very rich. A huge sum of money was waiting for them at the delivery site.
The armed men casually walked past their targets on either sides and still casually turned, following them behind.
The elderly man and his partner froze as the men jammed their guns against their backs.
“See that black car there?” the man behind the major target said, speaking loud enough for the hearing of elderly man with a white moustache and a mountain of greying hair. “Nod your heads if you see the car I’m talking about.”
The hostages nodded.
“Good,” said the one behind the elderly man, “You’ll both walk towards the car. If any one of you tries to walk away, you shall be shot in the spine. Just walk obediently to the car and you will be okay.”
They were easily escorted into the waiting car. The door was closed and the man behind the wheel started the engine; a dumb thing for a professional kidnapper to do. He should have kept the engine running. The hostages were relieved of their mobile phones and tied up with ropes as soon as they were taken inside.
“Hello Christopher,” the driver greeted, staring at the hostage through the rear-view mirror. He was looking at the hostage as if he had seen a live idol.
“What do you want from me? The tinted-hair asked nervously.
“Who are you people? Why did you take me? Where are you taking me? What did I do wrong?” The man asked.
“Shut up, old man!” one of the men thundered, aiming his gun forward.
“Why don’t we call Rough-88 and inform him that we have them?”
The elderly man put his hands in his pockets, watching the drama.
“Didn’t you hear him when he said we should call him only when we get to the destination?” The other abductor replied.
“We can just let him know we are on the way.”
“Knock yourself out,” replied the partner as he threw the phone to him.
The man collected the phone and dialled Rough-88’s number. It was picked almost immediately
“We have them,” he said, “We’re on our way,” The call was terminated.
“Who are you people?” The elderly man asked, detaching his hands from his pocket, “Where are you taking us?”
“Say one more word, old man, and I will beat the living daylight out of you.”
“Who is Christopher?” The younger hostage suddenly asked.
The abductors stared at him for a moment and suddenly burst into laughter.
“Good one,” said the driver, “We’ve already been told that you would play smart, Christopher. It’s normal for you to pull the denial trick.”
“Wait,” said the hostage, “you must have had me confused with someone else. I don’t know any Christopher.”
“Yeah right,” another abductor said in a bored disposition, “Who is the old man, Christopher?”
“I don’t know him,” said the elderly man, “We only met at the mall. See, I don’t want to be a part of whatever you guys have against each other. Just let me go, I beg of you. I am an old man with grandchildren.”
“How did you two meet?”
“He’s a good Samaritan,” said the old man, “I can’t believe you boys are accusing him of being someone else. Anyway, that is none of my business. All I know is that this young man held me when I lost my footing at the staircase. I would probably have fallen and broken my neck if he hadn’t come to my rescue.”
“I don’t believe you. The way you were both discussing shows that you have known each other for long.”
“The man wasn’t lying,” the younger hostage replied, “I only met him today.”
“What were both of you discussing before we grabbed you?”
“He was thanking me for rescuing him at the staircase.”
“No one told us Christopher could be kind-hearted,” one of the men joked and the others laughed.
“I already told you my name is not Christopher. You must have had me confused with another person.”
“Okay, let us assume – for a moment – that you are not the Christopher we were searching for, what’s your name?”
“My name is Emeka.”
The men glanced at each other and smiled knowingly.
“All right, Emeka, what were you doing in Shoprite?”
“The same thing others were doing – having a nice time.”
“Weren’t you supposed to be shopping in Shoprite? We can’t seem to find your shopping bag. The same thing goes for you, grandpa.”
“Like I said, I went there to have a nice time. I don’t go there to shop.”
“What ‘nice time’ exactly did you have?”
“I wined and dined.”
“What do you do for a living, Emeka?”
“I am a musician.”
“What kind of music?”
“Hip-hop. I’m actually a rapper.”
“Do you have a stage name?”
“You’re trying to be funny, aren’t you?”
“I’m rapper, not a comedian. You asked me a question and I answered.”
“None. I’ve released just two singles.”
The abductor turned to his mates and asked, “Has either one of you heard any song sung by an artiste called Emeka?”
“Nope,” they answered, smiling, pretending to play along. They evidently didn’t believe any word the young man was saying.
“Why is it that none of us in this car has heard your song before?”
“That’s because I’m an upcoming rapper. Someday, I will be as famous as rapper M.I.”
The interrogator shook his head, “You are so full of lies, Christopher.”
“I’m telling you, my name is not Christopher. My name is Emeka.”
“Where are your parents, Emeka?”
The young man stared at the abductor whose gun was posed directly at his chest. The abductor’s eyes were cold, as if he was ready to pull the trigger at any slight misjudgement by the young hostage.
“Where are your parents?” the question came again.
“My parents are dead,” Emeka replied grimly.
The man stared at him for a moment before he grinned widely. “You are not a great liar after all.”
“What do you mean?”
“We are taking you to your father.”
The driver turned to face them and said, “We are about ten minutes away from our destination.”
Then a truck suddenly appeared before them.
“Look out!” The passengers screamed as the approaching truck gave a loud horn.
In a split-second, the driver turned the steering wheel sharply, swerving the car off the tarred road to the sideway. The car lost control and smashed hard into a giant pole.
The last thing Emeka saw before he lost consciousness was the blood that covered the shattered windscreen.
It was hours before Emeka awoke. Dusk was already making its identity known. The young man was the first to wake up. The unconscious elderly man beside him was bleeding at the temple; the side of his left eye was split open. The front of the car was a total write-off; it was grotesquely shattered, pinning the driver and what remained of his head to the seat. He was dead, no doubt, for a long steel had penetrated his stomach and spilled out some of his guts to the side of the driver’s seat, towards the passenger’s. The scenery was bloody and disgusting.
Emeka tried the door on his side, it was unlocked. He smiled. The other kidnapper were sprawled on their seats as if they were dead but Emeka knew they weren’t. He stepped out of the car and began to run. He stopped when he realised that no one was chasing him. He thought about the elderly man. He had to do something. Besides, if not for anything else, he had to go back and retrieve his phone that was taken from him. The men might later use that phone against him if he didn’t take it.
After taking the phone, he returned to the back seat and loosened the rope used to tie the man’s hands behind him. Then he gently tapped the man in the arm. The elderly captive came awake groggily. It took him a moment before he was conscious of his surroundings.
“We were in an accident,” Emeka replied.
“It’s getting dark,” observed the man.
“Yes,” Emeka replied as he helped the elderly one out of the car. “We have to leave quickly before the men wake up.”
“Thank you, my child.”
“Can you run?”
“I can’t dance, but I think I can run.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
“Wait, I have to take my phone from these workers of iniquity.”
“Please be fast about it, we have no time to waste!”
The elderly man gently walked to the unconscious men and picked something from the floor of the middle seat where the men laid. By the time he returned, he was aiming a pistol at Emeka.
“What are you doing?” Emeka asked, looking astonished and scared.
“Go down on your knees,” the elderly man ordered. Emeka could see that the man meant business. His order must be obeyed or there would be consequences.
“Please don’t do this–”
A shot rang out and a bullet lifted dusts right beside Emeka’s feet.
“The next shot will go into your skull if you disobey me again. Turn around and go down on your knees.”
By this time, the gunshot had awoken the unconscious abductors. They rushed out and beheld the drama going on. They were too dazed to interfere, all they could do was watch in open-mouthed beffudlement.
Emeka turned around and did as he was told. His phone was taken from him; and then, again, his hands were tied behind him with a rope.
Emeka turned around and faced the three men. Then to everyone’s surprise, the elderly man removed the false moustache and the wig on his head. He was not elderly after all; he was a young man like the rest of them. He boldly walked towards the confused abductors and shook their hands.
“My name is Lucas. I am undercover operative for the corporation that employed you to take Christopher in.”
“An undercover operative?”
“Yes, I am the agent Rough-88 told you was watching Christopher. Knowing how clever Christopher can be, R-88 ordered me to stand in as the odd variable. I had to disguise as a helpless old man to avoid him from suspecting me; and I had to be taken alongside him too so that I could be there to foil his plan if he succeeded in outwitting you guys. I don’t want to believe the accident was a coincidence; even if it was, you guys have greatly underestimated the cunningness of Christopher. You should both consider yourselves lucky that I am here or he would have escaped. Do you have any idea what would be done to you if it was discovered that the hostage escaped from your custody?”
Both men were short of words, they did not know whether to apologise to the man or thank him. But the man wasn’t waiting for their apologies or appreciation,; he walked to Emeka and pushed him forward. He turned to the other men and said:
“Lead the way,” his words were authoritative.
They walked to the expressroad and relieved an innocent driver of his car by gun threats. As the four men boarded the new car and drove off, Lucas returned the gun he had taken from one of the abductors, including the phone he had relieved of Emeka. The men in turn offered Lucas back his phone but he told them to keep it.
It was about half past six when they reached the destination. They all disembarked from the car. Emeka – whose hands were still tied behind him – was pushed forward. The location was an old warehouse in a place that seemed like an abandoned industry. There were series of big machines around, but it was doubtful that any one of them was functioning.
“The warehouse is where your father is waiting for you,” one of the abductors informed Emeka.
“What do you guys want from me?” The hostage asked, sounding frightened.
The second abductor smirked and replied, “You shall soon know.”
“Why don’t we call Rough-88 and tell him we are at the location so that he can come and receive us?” suggested the first of the two abductors.
“That’s a good idea,” Lucas agreed.
“The second man picked his phone and placed the call. The phone in the other man’s pocket began to vibrate.
“It’s ringing,” said the caller.
The other man was puzzled. He extracted the phone from his pocket. The vibrating phone was the one they had taken from Lucas. He slowly pressed the green button and placed it against his ear.
“Hello, Rough,”he heard his partner’s voice on the phone. It immediately dawned on him that Rough-88’s phone had been with Lucas. He turned around to see Lucas aiming a pistol with a silencer to his head. The other man was still having his back to them, unaware of what was going on behind him; he was still busy with the ‘hello Rough’ mantra. Emeka stood at a corner and watched everything going on.
“Where is Rough?” The abductor at the wrong end of a pistol asked. The phone was still placed against his ear as he spoke.
“Dead,” Lucas replied and shot the man point-blank on the forehead.
The other man involuntarily turned around, and before he could react, Lucas shot him twice in the chest.
Emeka watched all these with horror written on his face. The man who had disguised as an old man, the man who had said he was the odd variable, the man who had called himself Lucas – was not who he said he was.
In his open-eyed mien, Emeka could utter just three words; the three words that confirmed a shocking discovery:
“You are Christopher!”
“How – how did you do it?”
Emeka didn’t know where to start from; instead, he said, “How did you do everything? I could never believe you were that Christopher they were hunting.”
“You know nothing about what you are talking about.”
“You did all these to save your captured father; this I know at least.”
“Like I said, you are saying rubbish. Keep your mouth shut and stay behind me.”
They crept stealthily towards the entrance of the warehouse. The door of the warehouse was slightly ajar. Emeka caught someone armed appear from the corner of his left eye, he turned sharply, pointed the gun in his hand towards the approaching figure and pulled the trigger. The bullet caught the enemy in the nose, blowing his face open. The sound of the gunshot was muffled.
Lucas was startled. “Where did you get the gun?”
Emeka smiled proudly and said, “I took it from one of the men you killed. I thought I should keep myself busy too and help out my friend.”
“Let’s get something straight. I am not your friend, okay? And if you get killed tonight, it’s totally your fault. I’m not responsible for you. I have given you the freedom to leave peacefully. This situation is none of your business.”
“I won’t get killed,” Emeka replied, smiling widely. His confidence annoyed his partner but there was nothing he could do about it. This was the idiot’s choice.
Emeka offered to stay out and keep watch as soon as they reached the entrance of the warehouse. Lucas stared at him and shrugged as he went in – his funeral.
He boldly walked into the warehouse. He saw an elderly right at the other end of the structure. The man wasn’t being held a hostage as the abductors had said; he thought as much. And with this discovery, he knew that nothing would be done to him now. At least not until the old man discovered who he was. He knew how important his presence was – or how important they thought his presence was. There were two armed men flanking the old man; they evidently worked for the man. He knew who the old man was, but he doubted if the man knew who he was. He walked further and saw two other operatives with guns drawn. There were a total of four bodyguards in the warehouse. He wondered how many more were outside trying to blow the amateurish Emeka’s brain out. In fact, Emeka might be dead by now, for he was hearing series of gunshots it would be such a waste if he lost his life right at this final destination. Anyway, he shrugged, Emeka might just be a collateral damage.
“We finally meet, Christopher,” the elderly man greeted, smiling warmly.
He didn’t give the old man a glance as he shot the two guards on either side. He walked bravely towards the remaining two men. He knew they would not shoot him. He was very important; his death wasn’t in their hands. They aimed their guns but unable to pull the trigger. He shot them both in the faces.
“Christopher, what– ” his words hanged in his throat at what he saw.
He walked to the old man and aimed the gun at his forehead.
“This is for Christopher,” he said as he pulled the trigger.
As he stepped over the corpse of the man and picked the four bags of money at a corner, he recalled how the man had looked before he pulled the trigger.
It was a look of horrendous revelation as the man gazed past him to the entrance – that he was not his son.
He was not Christopher.