Chapter 6: the tide

It had been ten days since the tragic event that remained packed up in our hearts and minds, refusing to let go, happened. Almost the whole of my lifetime was built upon this career path and truly, it was never even my decision from the start. I loved my job but if anyone had asked me on that fateful day ten years ago, where I saw myself in the future, the most honest answer I could have given was a thin line between dead and hopeless.

He had vouchsafed me a choice when I had had none and he had stuck by me throughout, fulfilling every promise he had made to me when I was twenty-two. The countdown had started because no one was safe anymore...all our lives were in danger. There was a very slim chance that it hadn't been the Jama'atu who had manned the attack at the barracks but currently, we were running low on possible suspects.

My thoughts reflected immediately on the strange woman I had met that night as I continued to think and muse about culprits. Everything about her was an enigma to me and it had seemed as though I was played at my own game that night. I had pondered on the issue multiple times. What if the woman had been a distraction or some kind of deflection? Even aside all that, I had to also proffer her the benefit of doubt and consider the basis of what if she had actually been telling the truth and was only there for another reason, but then again, what?

She was the second greatest missing piece to the puzzle of that night. A piece I had tried incessantly to locate for the past few days. My search had commenced when I had newly learnt that shockingly, I had been the only one to meet a woman in red, sitting at our fronts with those descriptions. No one else had seen her and funny enough, not even the security cameras.

The organisation took an oath that no matter what, we would honor this day for our Commander and set apart all thoughts about work from the burial. The respect accorded was befitting because he was a great man, one who never failed to be the patriotic mercenary in the defence of our country at all costs. It was an agonizing and depressing day for all of us, seeing as this man in question, a man of distinguished repute had impacted in one way or another, into our daily lives.

As the Nissan fastback, four-door Sedan drove into the church premises where the requiem mass was to be held, it had started raining almost instantly. The rain didn't help at all and instead, it had driven me deeper than I already was into the current sombre states of reflection and grief.

Reluctantly I had recalled. The day when I had almost drowned in my own self but was saved by a hand that had reached out to reclaim me.

~~~~

"Beautiful isn't it?" I heard a deep voice abruptly call out from behind. At the double, it had me a little startled because I had previously thought that I was the only occupant of the plain and lacking room.

I turned and instantly, I perceived the sight of a weird and uncanny looking man. He talked funny and also, he hadn't really had the outlooks of someone who was a pure national. Longer hair, paler skin, those features were foreign. Definitely, it warranted my curiousity and spiked my eagerness to know who he was exactly and why he had even bothered to come here when my fate had already been decided.

"What is?" I asked, feeling a little confused at his initial question. There was nothing in this room that could be considered or termed beautiful. Would it be the chipped off paint on the declining walls or the plain desk and two worn out chairs at the centre of the room? Nothing in here could be passed off as clean, not to even talk of having any elements of beauty. A strange smell had accompanied the space too, and relatively, the place had just lacked life within it—I guess it frankly depicted what it was primarily used for, destroying lives.

"The rain," the man said while looking further in the direction of the single room window and in revelation, believe it or not, I hadn't even known it was raining. I followed his fixated stare out the window to search and discover what this man had seen in the quick drops that pelted and struck the earth and why it had him fascinated so much.

"Never mind, I had thought you were watching the downpour," he replied, adding a hasty laugh, and tucking his hands together at his back. It was only then that I had come to realize that he as well paraded a peculiar uniform; a black long trench coat with a dress shirt underneath and black boots warming his feet. Honestly, it was ridiculous but watching him had caused me to think about the movie, "Men in black." They were too similar...

Subsequently, the man walked over to sit and I joined him a second after, still wondering why someone like him was here. Somehow, he possessed the features of some kind of police officer but a special one perhaps.

"Mr. Lade Adenuga, right?" He posed, searching for a response in my facials with his eyes. I couldn't help but muse, his pronunciations of native names were nonetheless funny but almost apt.

I nodded at his question and in turn, he pulled out a file from the inside of his jacket without wasting anymore time.

"Tell me, Lade, are you scared?"

His next question caught me completely off guard. At the beginning, I had thought he was only going to run me off on the normal drills like the others who came by but only this strange man seemed to care.

"It doesn't matter," I said to him while trailing my eyes away from his sight. I was minutes away from my own end, fear wasn't a priority anymore.

We sat in echoing silence, and only the hard sounds of raindrops and the cracklings of the belated thunderstorm could be heard throughout the room for the while until he decided to speak.

"I had a son once you know."

The man voiced and again, I wondered if he was merely here to talk and not to accomplish the actual job of prosecuting me. No doubt, I was cornered. I hadn't known how to respond and so, I just offered a half shrug, waiting for him to continue the details of a story which I had already known he was in the process of verbalizing.

"You two are strikingly identical, well not facially but the rest is so similar."

"Isn't that supposed to be a bad thing?" I questioned because the man had then smiled like I was someone to be emulated.

"Yes, very bad," he said and at the instant, my forehead squeezed in confusion, maybe I would have loved to be proven wrong.

"But," he added once more.

"You can feel fear and that's a good sign."

As if suddenly in a hurry, the man started flipping through the pages at warp speed and on the other hand, I found myself staring at his almost bald head. It was bizarre but then, the sight of his hairless head had made me reach out for mine to check if the hairs on them were still intact.

"How old was your son when he died?" The question came without notice and alarm, and afterwards, my regret was instantaneous. The whoosh from the flipping movements seized. It had only been a random thought and after all, he did say we were alike, possibly to the extent of similarities in fate?

"17."

Even I had felt bad for the man before me and whoever his son was. That age had just been too tender and cruel for anyone to lose their lives just when they were almost halfway to its peak. Presently, his eyes showed a distant reminder of a pain that was once present but now well hidden.

We went quiet for the second time but as usual, he was the one to break it a couple minutes later.

"I don't wish to see a repeat of what happened to him," he admitted, looking straight at me, and showing that he patently understood all I was going through. In a way, it was unbelievable, how this man had made me welcome emotions I had forcibly pushed away.

"You have so much anger, Lade, but it becomes a ticking time bomb without a useful channel."

"Stop trying to act like you can save me, the shrinks couldn't even get any good results," I said brusquely, feeling completely hopeless and tired of running from things I would eventually face.

"What if I tell you I can be your channel."

"How?" I asked nonchalantly, trying my hardest not to put much interest, even though my attention had been sustained. No one could save me and the one person who could had left me alone in this world.

"I have something," he revealed, reaching out to get something from his inside pockets thereafter.

My eyeballs bulged out from their sockets when I had viewed the shiny aluminium surface of the gun in his hold. At the sight of it, I began to regard the man with cautious looks.

"A gun?"

"Yes, indeed it is. This little piece you see here is the origin of power according to Mao Tse Tsung. Can you believe that something so tiny could give you so much authority and confidence?" He explained, using a sugary tone that seemed hypnotic but still, I was not yet clear on what the need for this particular discussion was.

"You want me to kill people?"

"Not in that sense but let's just say, I want you to use this gun as a channel for your energy. Just imagine how unstoppable you would be."

The scenario he created in my head was that of me as maybe an assassin or a hitman and I may have not have had scruples but in the memory of a loved one, I had vowed never to take a life in turn for what I had lost...again.

"Come work for me, Lade."

The question pervaded the room as I stared at the man's face. He didn't own the usual wicked glints or sinister smiles wrapped around his face like killers or criminals in general did. He looked friendly, confident but a bit stern.

"As what?"

"A good killer," he said simply, as if to say his words hadn't weighed tons.

"I can't be a killer."

"I'm not asking you to be a killer, I'm asking you to hold the gun in an honorary manner. Join me in the ICS."

The Incident Command System, I had heard of the notable organisation before. A caucus filled with men and women of substance, dignity and loyalty, fighting for the fate and future of our country. Could I possibly be one of them?

"Just think about it, I don't expect you to give me an answer now." He finalized before rising to his feet. I was still in shock but most of all, I had almost forgot to learn of his name.

"Who are you?" I shouted after him, getting on my own feet too.

"Commander Richard Young or you can just say...your guardian angel." The man replied as he walked away, leaving me stunned and alone inside the cubicle sized room.

The weirdest and the most inconceivable conversation I had ever entertained in my life was with the Commander of the ICS! How was that even possible? I was a nobody, why had he decided to help me?

...

Up till this day, my question was still left blank, without plausible answers to satisfy it. I had used to think that maybe, just maybe, that someday he might wish to tell me why but now, look at what had happened, if only I had been in that room, I would have taken the hit for him. Richard Young deserved more than to die in the hands of those criminals!

I felt it again. The signs of something I thought had since been suppressed a long time ago but my hands were currently shaking and in anger, I gripped the cushion of the backseat tighter. No matter what, I would get my revenge.


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