Alex in action!
After the two soldiers, had gone, Rufai and Basil sat quietly at the table, watching and waiting for their boss to speak.
The Alhaji took his time with the drinking of his water and the thoughts of his mind before he looked at his two most trusted lieutenants.
“What do you think,” he asked finally.
“I think we’re good,” said Rufai readily. “These men definitely have what it takes to see this mission through. They all have the skill, experience, confidence, and fearlessness to handle any trouble we encounter along the way. The Igbo guy, though, he’s exceptional. His physic, the way he moves, his level of alertness and still the calmness, unusual self-control, and confidence, he’s definitely very highly trained and extremely dangerous.”
“Yes, it’s exactly like his file says,” agreed Basil. “He’ll be a wonderful asset out there, but I don’t trust him to deliver on the last part of the plan. He strikes me as a man with a conscience.”
“Exactly what I’ve been thinking too,” said Rufai and looked at his boss. “We may need to take him out at that point.”
“His usefulness should be over by then,” said the Alhaji. “If he tries to become a problem, kill him, but do it very quickly and without mistakes otherwise he will kill all of you and he will do it without the problem of a conscience. According to what I hear, he was, and technically still is, one of the very best fighting men the Army has ever had to offer.”
“Samuel and his men are exceptionally good too,” said Rufai. “We will be four against only him when the time comes, he can’t beat us all.”
“Don’t be too sure of that,” replied the Alhaji then shook his head and sat forward in his chair. “I don’t even think you fully understand what you’re dealing with here. Listen, Samuel and his men may be well-trained soldiers, but Alex Okoye is much better, or rather, much worse. He was a highly trained commando who was handpicked because of his unique talents, to undergo even more specialized training to become Special Forces. Not the normal kind of Special Forces, mind you, there’s a secret group that was trained directly by the Americans at high costs, the Black Berets, they call them. He emerged the best in his class, I was told that was the real reason he never went to prison for the offense he committed, apparently, some very powerful people in the military see him as an invaluable asset that can be used again. Those blank pages in his file are actually the reports of a classified mission that went so terribly wrong that all traces of it had to be completely suppressed, but for a time it made him something of a celebrity in certain top political circles, that’s how I came to know of him in the first place. The incident happened at the early stage of his career as an élite commando, his unit was detailed to provide special protection for some VIPs quietly doing some on-the-spot assessments in that northeast region. Two federal senators were among those VIPs and that information somehow leaked out to the terrorists. Their convoy got ambushed by a large group of heavily armed Boko Haram militants who killed a lot of the escorting soldiers, captured one of the senators alive and retreated quickly across the international borders into the remote Cameroon mountains where they knew the Nigerian military would never follow readily. But he went after them and he went alone. Multiple eyewitness reports have it that he just took off running after the vehicles the insurgents drove away in. He was gone for four days, but when he finally came back out of these mountains, he was carrying the unconscious body of that senator over his shoulders and he had thirteen Boko Haram masks with him. Thirteen plus kills! All alone and deep in unknown enemy territory! If not for the fact that he crossed international borders the way he did, he would have gotten a big commendation and reward that would have changed his life completely. But as it was, the whole thing was squashed and he just got selected for more specialized training to become Special Forces.”
“Incredible!” said Basil in awe.
“Yes,” said the Alhaji with satisfaction. “His skill set and incredible level of commitment are what made me go all out to get him in particular. With him fully on board now, I feel completely sure that I’m not wasting my time or money. If those bastards fail to produce that girl for any reason, he will not hesitate to pursue them into the pits of hell to bring her back.”
Rufai was now feeling uneasy. “I think I will have to warn Samuel specifically about him. We will have to be very careful to act all at once, shoot him without engaging him in any way.”
“Yes” agreed the Alhaji with some relief. “That would be best.”
The three men sat in silence for several moments, and then the Alhaji got to his feet. “I’m tired. I think I’ll call it a night.”
“Good night, sir,” said Basil, getting respectfully to his feet at once.
“Good night, Alhaji,” said Rufai, getting to his feet too.
The two men stood respectfully as Alhaji Mustapha Usman walked out of the room.
It was about nine-fifteen that evening when the Mercedes dropped Alex off at his hotel and drove off again. As he headed for the big front doors that led into the lobby, one the doormen stepped close to him and held out a small piece of blue paper.
“Someone dropped this off for you, sir,” said the man in a quiet voice.
Alex stopped at once and accepted the folded paper curiously. He unfolded it and saw at once that the written inscriptions on it was in code, a code created and used only by the Nigerian Military Intelligence.
Alex read the short message quickly, then glanced around to make sure no one was watching as he changed direction and headed for the parking lot.
The hotel’s parking lot was a well-lit large area that occupied the entire right section of its spacious front grounds and a lot of expensive vehicles were parked there in well-organized rows. Aside from the few cars driving in or out, the entire area was completely deserted as Alex walked briskly through, heading for the northwest section which was the furthest part of the parking lot. He kept a careful watch and even made a detour between the parked rows of cars just to make sure he wasn’t being followed.
Coming around the last car, Alex spotted the blue Peugeot 507 saloon car right off. It was parked slightly apart from other cars as the note said it would be. As he got closer, the front passenger side door jerked open and a well-built man in civilian clothes jumped out.
The man threw Alex a smart military salute, then hurried around to the back of the car to the rear offside door, got it quickly open and held it for Alex to get in.
As Alex walked up, the man stood stiffly to attention and threw him another smart military salute.
Alex nodded casually to him and get into the car without question. The door was pushed firmly closed and in a second, the man was getting back into the front passenger seat and the car was pulling out of its slot.
As they drove off, the man touched his hand to the side of his head and spoke briefly into a tiny microphone connected to an earpiece, then turned to address the other man sitting quietly across from Alex in the owner’s comer of the back seat.
“He wasn’t followed, sir.”
Alex didn’t know either of the two men in the front seats, but even in the darkness of the car’s interior, he recognized the man sitting quietly across from him in the backseat.
Colonel Ernest Iyang, Deputy Head of Operations, Military Intelligence, stared fixedly out the dark window on his side like he hadn’t heard or seen a thing. He too was in civilian clothes, white shirt sleeves, and dark trousers.
The car was leaving the hotel now and heading into the city.
“Good evening, sir,” said Alex respectfully.
The older man didn’t seem to hear for what seemed to be a long minute, but then he turned his head to stare at Alex.
It was six months since Alex last saw his old boss with whom he enjoyed a special relationship, nonetheless, he was a bit unsettled by the personal visit. Earlier that day when he had put in the phone call to the secure line of a friend at Military Intelligence headquarters and left the message on his voice mail, the last thing Alex had expected was a swift visit from the top brass who ran the entire department.
“What is an out of work, ex-military operative doing in the luxury suite of one of the most expensive hotels in the country,” asked the Colonel in his usual no-nonsense manner. “And what is he doing calling a secure Military Intelligence line he should have forgotten about six months ago?”
Alex took a deep breath and let it out. “It’s a long story, sir,”
“I suppose it is,” said the Colonel completely unimpressed. “Mind enlightening me?”
“Yes, sir. Two days ago, a man by the name of Alhaji Mustapha Usman came to see me at my place in Lagos. How he knew so much about me and even where exactly to find me, I have no idea. He’s the CEO of Goldfield Holdings International, ever heard of him?”
“Yes, he’s a northern billionaire business mogul and the company has both solid and liquid mineral mining interests among other things. He normally likes to keep a low profile but has lots of high-powered connections both political and military. What did he want?”
Alex began to talk enthusiastically. He left nothing out, not even the contents and purpose of the small suitcase he carried. When he was done, the Colonel was silent for a long minute.
“Have you mentioned this to anyone else at all, apart from me?” asked the Colonel finally.
“No, sir. just you.”
“Good, let’s keep it that way,” said the Colonel and turned to look quietly out the window again.
“You mean you won’t do anything about this?”
“I didn’t say that,” replied the older man without looking at him.
“Then what are you saying, sir? We can’t just allow that kind of money fall into the hands of those terrorists, that would be tantamount to sponsoring them. And then there’s El Soldat who Military Intelligence has been after for so long.”
The Colonel sighed tiredly. “You’ve been away from the game for too long, Lieutenant, and a lot has changed in that time, but not for the better as the civilian newspapers are putting out. Firstly, the Army is now battling a highly tactical and fully mobilized Boko Haram on every front and they have our backs to the wall. The kidnapping of the Chibok girls was just the first to attract public attention on a massive scale and expose our helplessness, there have been so many incidents like it recently. Those militants have overrun almost every key city and town in the northeast, occupied the territory and mounted their wretched flags in plain sight. In Borno state, in particular, we only hold the main city and a few small towns around along with their villages, but none of them are completely secure. Even as we speak now, the battle to keep those terrorists at a safe distance from Bama is being fought and the Army has been losing steadily for a straight two days now. Things are so bad down there that we’ve completely lost contact with troops in certain areas, no one can clearly say if they are dead or alive or simply in serious need of reinforcements and supplies,” the Colonel shook his head. “Ordinary words cannot even begin to describe the kind of chaos that now exists down there, Lieutenant, and most of this is due in particular to a powerful new jamming equipment Boko Haram is now using to interfere with our communication signals. These are terrorists that are supposed to hate western technology and they’ve got the very best! Lastly, these terrorists have now gone into the kidnapping business full time. Families of the rich and powerful are their main targets and they now go out of their way to launch surprise attacks deeply into secure territories to capture their victims. The average ransom demand per head ranges from half a million to one million US dollars and several top politicians and VIPs have already been hit both here, over in the Niger Republic and Cameroon. Just two weeks ago, even before their Armies came anywhere near Bama, a group of them hit the royal palace there in broad daylight. They killed off most the security operatives there, kidnapped the Queen of Bama herself, her daughter and a son then disappeared into thin air. The ransom demand is two million US dollars or they execute the boy next month. We can’t find the royal family anywhere and we’ve looked really hard. King El-Kanemi is desperately trying to negotiate things down and secure the necessary funds, but a tight lid is being kept on everything in order to save face, that’s why there has been no talk of it in the news. Again, in another incident just over a month ago, this one too isn’t public knowledge either, the deputy Prime Minister of Cameroon had his wife and children kidnapped from his hometown and the place was nowhere near the troubled border regions. He had to pay three million US dollars to get them back. Even our own Federal Government has been trying to save face by secretly negotiating to buy peace and the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls. The ransom demand for those girls alone, all two hundred and sixteen of them, was initially one hundred million US dollars but with the help of the Chadian president who is acting as a go-between with the leaders of Boko Haram, the price has been reduced to forty million dollars. The money is set to be paid directly through the office of the National Security Adviser,” the colonel paused a moment to let that one sink in before going on. “Your current employer is just one name on a long list of VIPs paying ransom to those terrorists and the list has grown very quickly to include both the governors of Bauchi and Kano states who pay them on a monthly basis to stay away from their territory. We are trying our very best, night and day, but there isn’t much the Army or any other arm of the military can do about anything right now. Everyone blames us, but the sad truth which we cannot voice openly is that we are still waiting for the politicians to sort themselves out and provide us with the necessary weapons and equipment needed to switch tactics from defensive to offensive, and while we wait Boko Haram grows from strength to strength and continues to commit abominable atrocities never heard of before, our soldiers and countless numbers of innocent citizens are being slaughtered on a daily. As long as Alhaji Mustapha Usman keeps the ransom negotiations and payments for the release of his niece very quiet, everyone here in Abuja will look the other way.
Even if information of it somehow leaks, he still won’t be touched. In fact, the contrary is the case, he will find a lot of sympathizers among his powerful friends who will only be too willing to provide him with all the necessary assistance he needs to bring that girl safely home and unharmed. I suspect that’s how he came into possession of classified military documents and the soldiers he’s using. I dare say I could point a few fingers, but the targets are so high up above my pay grade that I’ll most likely get my fingers chopped off if not my career itself, top brass as I am.”
Alex was quiet for a minute as he digested all the shocking new information. Yes, indeed, he had been away from the game for too long.
The Colonel was silent too.
“What of El Soldat?” Alex asked quietly.
“You will have to take him out.”
“Me?” Alex asked in surprise.
The Colonel looked directly at him. “Yes, you, Lieutenant, seeing as you’re already neck deep in this, is there a better person for the job?”
“I’m not even military anymore. I don’t count.”
“Once a military man, always a military man. You still and will always count because you were always my best man, that’s until you had the stupidity to beat up your own commanding officer.”
“And I paid the price in full,” responded Alex firmly. “I rotted in a military jail for a month before they kicked me out of the Army minus several months’ pay. I don’t work for you or the Army anymore.”
“But you’re still a patriot and your county invested so much in you,” countered the Colonel swiftly.
Alex sat back and said nothing.
“Lieutenant, do you really know why I came here personally tonight despite having my hands so full of work, I can hardly sleep?”
“I came here because you were my best man and judging by any standard you still are. When my best man, right out of the blues, calls another top operative of mine and says he wants to meet urgently and privately over a very important issue, that raises a red flag that catches my full attention at once. Captain Akeem had the good sense to answer all my questions when I interrogated him directly, and then, instead of dispatching some agents to pick you up as I normally would have done, here I am. And I’m so glad I came because you’ve just handed me the rare opportunity of catching up with the second most wanted terrorist in this country.”
Alex was surprised. “I thought he was number seven?”
The Colonel chuckled mirthlessly. “El Soldat has promoted himself to second place in just three months. Aside from the fact that his private operations have become too devastating not to talk of crippling to the Army, Military Intelligence has finally got confirmation that he and not Umar, is the real liaison between Boko Haram and Islamic State in Libya, with connections in Mali.”
Alex suddenly understood a lot of things. “So he’s the one who’s been running the guns! No wonder they let him operate so freely.”
“Yes, and you of all people should know exactly how hard it is to get on that man’s trail. It’s now or never. El Soldat has to be taken out and under the circumstance, you are the best man for the job.”
“I don’t think so, sir. Like I said, I’m not military anymore, so all of this is really none of my business. And considering the way I was treated by you people, I can freely say that I don’t give a shit.”
The Colonel sighed. “Lieutenant, the doctor that secretly gave evidence at your court-martial, do you know who put him up to it?”
“He went forward himself, he was my doctor.”
“You had General Suleman looking to cut off your head for putting his son, your direct commanding officer, in the hospital with multiple fractures minus one eye. You really think anyone below full Colonel would have stuck his neck out for your sake? I had to send people to threaten that doctor in unique ways before he agreed to step forward of his own free will.”
Alex stared speechlessly.
The Colonel smiled. “I didn’t abandon you even then like you thought I did. You were my best operative and I always take the needed time to study my best people carefully in order to understand them well in every circumstance. Yes, I knew you a lot better than you thought I did. I knew that for you to go berserk the way you did, there had to be a damn good reason so I set out to find it and when I did …when I saw and understood the true nature of it, I made the decision to see you free. That decision was also made based on the fact that you were a man of honor and integrity, a true patriot who would always give his best for his country, whether in or out of the force. I felt you would be of great service someday and I wasn’t wrong,” the Colonel stared at Alex. “Lieutenant, it is time to repay my belief in you. It is time to repay all the money, time and trust your country invested in you. Your country needs your help in this hour.”
Alex sighed, the trap had already closed on him.
“You have other good operatives, sir, why not just send them? I’ve been out of training for six whole months now. I’m grossly out of shape”
“You may have been out of training for six months, Lieutenant, but I’m willing to bet a year’s salary that with your new multi-million naira contract that is sending you into a war zone again, you’ve already gone into some form of intensive training and if Henry here were to take a go at you right now, he too will end up in a hospital with multiple fractures and he’s one of my best men even now which is why he’s in this seat” the Colonel jerked his head at the man in the front passenger seat before him.
Alex said nothing and the Colonel stared hard at him.
“Being out of shape is no excuse when your country needs you, Lieutenant. If you are not fully fit yet then one or two energy pills should be of some help, we still have those”
Alex searched frantically for a means of escape. “Sir, you could just send one or two of the 001 class operatives to take care of El Soldat”
“Most of them are dead, Zacki, Freshman, Amedu, Jericho, even you friend Christian, they’re all dead. We lost them and thirteen good soldiers at a single ambush during the fall of Gwoza three months ago. We sent them after Abubakar Shekau who was supposed to show up at some secret meeting there but never did.”
Alex was stunned. “Was any of them captured?”
“No, they were all slaughtered like pigs. They were led right into the ambush by a double agent we thought we could trust. Their vehicle was hit directly by a rocket and the survivors were gunned down by heavy machine-gun fire, all from a hidden location. Right now, there’s no one left with the adequate experience and skills to go after El Soldat alone, deep in enemy territory like he is and sending in a hit team is no good at all, I have already lost six good men in the last two months just trying. It has to be one man, one very good man. If you do this, Lieutenant, you would definitely be saving a lot of lives.”
“Who was the double agent?” asked Alex.
“You know him, Green dove, he’s gone AWOL since then.”
Alex felt the anger rise within him and made up his mind at once. “What are your orders, sir?”
“You will continue working for Alhaji Mustapha Usman exactly as he hired you to do. Go right ahead with the ransom negations and payments, we will provide you with the necessary devices and explosives to turn the briefcase into a bomb that will explode after the exchange has been made, you know how it works. Hopefully, El Soldat will open it a second time when he’s back at his base with all his lieutenants within ten feet of him and the explosion will wipe them all away and save us a lot of trouble. But if that fails and El Soldat somehow survives, you will have to go in alone and finish the job.”
“How will you know if El Soldat is killed by the bomb or not?”
“We have an informant among his men. Once that bomb goes off, we’ll know it within the minute. If it gets him, we’ll know it too.”
Alex was quiet for a minute as he thought things over quickly.
“I want total immunity and some form of official recognition,” he said finally.
The Colonel nodded. “I’ll fix things tonight so the paperwork will all be straightened out by tomorrow morning.”
“I also get to keep all payments and benefits from my present employer.”
“Your money was never an issue.”
Alex though quickly some more. “I’ll need a few items, a light bulletproof vest, up-to-date tactical maps of the entire region and an H-4 GPS tracker.”
“A request for a high-tech tracker without a corresponding request for a monitoring device,” the Colonel stared hard at Alex. “You never turned in your GX-2, Lieutenant.t.”
The GX-2 was an expensive high-tech device that passed easily for a very slim Android phone. Originally built by a Japanese firm to the requirements of a big American security outfit, the Nigerian Military Intelligence had somehow acquired a batch of half a dozen of the super smartphones, and then had its engineers first, modify them, and then replicate them. The modified GX-2s had been issued to the six topmost operatives of the agency, which included Alex, while the follow-up replicas, the GX-3 and GX-4, became the standard issue phones of the agency. Of course, the original Japanese built GX-2s were far more superior to the ‘merely adequate’ replicas, Alex knew a good thing when he saw it which was why he never turned in his own GX-2 for the standard issue as protocol required. He had simply reported it as ‘missing in action’ and that had been that. He had only used the GX-2 for four months before getting kicked out of the army and he kept it afterward.
But he needed that high-tech tracker now and only the GX-2 could handle it smoothly as well as perform a host of other functions that could mean the difference between life and death where he was going to, where they wanted him to go. There was no need to hide anything anymore.
“If I make it out alive and with the phone, you people can have it back” lied Alex effortlessly. Lying very well, even under extreme torture, was part of his tracings and he knew damned well he could get away with it now even if caught “I’ll also need those energy pills as well.”
“Done,” said the Colonel without hesitation. “One of our people will be on the plane to hand everything to you along with any other necessary information”
“How do I I.D the person?”
“Don’t worry yourself about that, you will be approached.” said the Colonel and turned back again to look out the window in a way that indicated the conversation was over.
Alex suddenly realized they were heading back to the hotel again. Soon they pulled in through the big gate, dropped him off in the parking lot and drove off.
Alex felt easier within himself as he walked back to the hotel. He entered the large, brightly lit lobby, got his keys from the lovely receptionist at the front desk, dropped a meal order for room service and headed for the stairs; he hardly ever made use of elevators when there was a free fitness exercise to be had.
The eleven-story climb had his thighs and calves aching but the exercise was good. Alex walked down the wide hallway to his door, checked and saw that the invincible bit of thin wire he had carefully inserted in between the door and frame was still in place. No one had entered his room in his absence.
He got the door unlocked and went in.
By the time Alex finished packing up the new suitcase and changing into a tracksuit, room service was at the door with his dinner, a big bowl of fresh salad, roast turkey and a bottle of wine, Alex put everything away in the fridge then got a towel and headed down to the gym.
Alex spent the two hours until midnight working out vigorously. He pushed himself well over his physical limits until every muscle in his body ached. Finally, tired and very weak, he still took the stairs up to his floor instead of the elevators. On trembling legs, he staggered down the hallway to the door of his suite and went in.
After a refreshing cold shower that brought back some of his strength, Alex ate up the cold food, washed it down with the wine, then went off to lie down in the King of king-sized bed.
Sleep came swiftly.