“There is something you both need to know. Every confession booth in every Catholic Church in the world is bugged. Every confession is heard by the authorities. You can as well say the government is god.”
Pius Anwauli spoke as though he was giving a presentation. He paced the hotel room with one hand behind him and he barely looked at Leona and Emeka. He knew they were beyond shocked.
“Going to the police here in Abuja will not work” he continued as he paced the room “It won’t work because Alhaji can pay them off. But if someone is to make a confession inside a catholic confession booth, it will bypass the local authorities and get to Interpol”.
“Ex-Excuse me Sir” Leona stammered. “I don’t need to tell you how confused I am. Why did you press down the button? How did you know I would hear? Why are you deciding to help us?”
Pius paused his pacing and looked at her. “Alhaji had gone through my company profile and decided to partner with me. I was wholly interested at first but I am not willing to kill to make money” He looked at Emeka as though he wanted to see how that sentence struck him. Emeka remained quiet.
“I looked for everyway to foil Alhaji’s plan without making it look like it was me and in the office that night, he went in to use the rest room and the intercom is the only idea I had. I didn’t know whether it would work or not” Pius spoke as a father would to his children. He didn’t need them to validate his story. He had instructions to pass and he had to do it fast.
“Any catholic church will do” Pius looked at the two people seated in front of him.
“I’ll do it” Leona blurted out.
“Dear Girl” Pius said calmly “It doesn’t work like that; there are all sorts of sensors in that booth and someone with vague detail as you will be pushed aside”
Leona wasn’t following but Pius hadn’t made his point yet. “If we can get one of the bombers to make the confession, we can tell him how to say it with keywords to trigger their systems. Hopefully that will work”. Pius was sounding smart to himself at this point.
“Sir! are we still on hopefully?” Emeka’s silence had broken. From the look on Leona’s face, she was pondering the same thing.
“It takes a couple of hours for Interpol to verify flagged confessions” Pius explained. “And sadly enough, the closer to the time of the bombing, the quicker they respond”
“It’s going to happen at the conquerors’ Domain conference on Saturday evening” Leona rushed the words as though it will speed up the help process. Both men looked at her as though she was the one doing the bombing. She felt their anxiety so she felt obligated to tell them how she knew. “The bombers are workers at our company farm in nasarrawa. One of them is my friend and has been giving me information. His name is Malaud” There was sadness in her voice as she spoke.
“That forth guy who wasn’t talking much when we met?” Emeka didn’t understand what he was feeling. “Owu ya wa, choro igbu anyi?” Blurting into his native dialect was something Emeka couldn’t control in times of high emotion.
“Again, I don’t understand what you just said Emeka” Leona said. “But I can get Malaud to go to the confession booth today. He trusts me”
“Let him go tomorrow” Pius countered. “If the attack is for Saturday, he should go tomorrow to create urgency. This is what you will tell him to say”. But Pius didn’t end there. “there is someone called Deji right? He is into I.T. There is something he is to do before Malaud enters that booth”.
“The tracker can be ready by 10am if I don’t sleep” Deji said enthusiastically. Leona’s Thursday had become busier than she imagined. From her office, she had managed to meet Emeka at his hotel and Deji had been called from there.
Leona, on getting home at 11pm, had called Malaud and after a call that spanned a little over 30 minutes, had passed all needed information. He knew exactly what to say and how to say it.
Friday morning had arrived and Leona was expecting her mom any minute. The intercom buzzed and Leona heard her boss’ voice on the other side. “Leona please come”.
She got off her seat and tried to look sharp as she entered Alhaji Abdullahi’s office.
“Have you thought about what I said yesterday?” he asked calmly. Leona remained silent.
“This is going to be good in the long run” he tried to convince her. “With the near monopoly we are about to have on food supply, we will be very powerful”
“But Sir” Leona started “A lot of people will die; not only at the conference but after that. People are coming form all over the country and a lot of them are breadwinners”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Alhaji shot back. “Population control is the second part of this plan” Leona’s eyes opened wide but Alhaji was not paying attention to her “resources are not enough and to be honest, you southerners are multiplying like a virus. We need to curb that or we’ll all starve”
Leona felt hopeless. Please Malaud this is on you. Help us stop this.
“You have till the end of work today” Alhaji’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “get back to work”.
Emeka found himself at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church as agreed. He had met Deji at his hotel to get a tracker which was to be installed in the confession booth. As he got in to the booth, he quickly placed the tracker where he had been asked to. He really didn’t know the purpose of the tracker but since Deji had to return to Lagos, he had been asked to do the tracker installation.
“Madam I swear I will make sure I go this morning; no matter what”. Malaud told Leona on the phone but it was late already. It was Saturday morning, the day of the attack. Leona did not know how long it would take the authorities to act but she was eager to look for a plan B just in case malaud couldn’t make it.
I will look for a way out of here Malaud thought to himself as he snuck out of the guesthouse. He got into a cab. He got out on the street adjacent to the Catholic Church and he could spot it from where he was. Finally, victory.
“Malaud what are you doing here?” he heard someone say in Hausa. He turned around to see a colleague of his. I have been followed. It was a quiet street and before Malaud could fabricate a story, the man charged at him. “You are a traitor” he shouted as he lunged forward. “You are on the infidel’s side and you will die with them”. Malaud tried to defend himself but he wasn’t quick enough. The assailant’s dagger quickly connected with his stomach and Malaud found himself on the ground bleeding. The assailant spit on him as he mumbled something in Hausa and left. I am still alive Malaud thought. I have to get inside that church.
He should’ve been out by now. Ten minutes after Malaud entered into the booth, Leona couldn’t keep sitting down. She went to the confession booth and as she swung the door open, there was Malaud lying lifeless in a pool of his own blood. “HELP!!” she screamed with tears in her eyes. “SOMEBODY HELP” she yelled out again. Oh my God I got you into this Malaud. Please don’t die.
A few alter boys ran to her and within a few minutes, the resident nurse was also present. He has a pulse she said “he will be alright”.
Leona had no way of knowing if Malaud had passed the message before he collapsed and it had been an hour. She sat beside Malaud’s bed not knowing what the next step was. And then her phone rang.
“Leona Umoh” came the voice on the other side of the phone. “Am I onto Leona?”
“Yes you are” she said with a cracked voice. “Who is this please?”
“My name is Matthew and I am with Interpol. We have received information that implies that you are in danger. Stay where you are. Someone is coming to get you.
You got the call too huh” Emeka said about half an hour later as he turned to Leona in a police van heading to the conquerors domain convention centre. “I guess your man Malaud came through.”
Leona was excited but scared. They were heading to go put an end to all the madness at last. The convoy of sirens which Leona was a part of soon came to a halt. Her door swung open to reveal a dark, handsome man on the other side.
“Leona is it?” He said.
“Yes?” She replied.
“Matthew!” He shot at her. “We spoke on the phone”. He spoke with authority “We need to walk in. The program has started and we have only minutes.”
Matthew led a squad of armed Interpol officers through the grounds of the convention and soon, they were in a quieter area. Leona could see cabins and she noticed this was a campsite.
“Why are we here?” She asked Matthew.
“Our signal tracked your boss to this area Matthew replied. “He is in one of these cabins.
They moved slowly as an officer looked at a tablet computer in his hand. He seemed to be tracking some thing on it.
” He’s here” Leona shouted. “That’s one of our company cars”.
Matthew looked at the officer with the tablet who nodded in confirmation. Matthew gave the signal and the cabin which had the car parked was surrounded by his men; leaving the front door for him to access.
” Stay out here Leona” He instructed as he signaled another officer to kick down the door.
Alhaji Jubril Abdullahi jumped from his mat and clutched the prime phone. He and Matthew exchanged looks for a second then Matthew spoke. “Drop the phone Sir. It’s over”
“I have the best lawyers” Alhaji spoke. “I don’t know what you think you have on me”
“We have a full confession from Malaud” Matthew replied with a smug expression. “Goodluck refuting that”.
Matthew walked in closer and with a gun still pointed at Alhaji, he grabbed the phone from his hand. As he looked at it, his heart stopped. ” Guys we have a problem” he said into his earpiece. “The timer has already begun”.
Leona along with another officer entered the cabin where the Alhaji was. She had heard Matthew over a walkie-talkie another officer was holding. ” Deji should be able to disarm it” she suggested with a shaky voice “please my mom is at that convention”
“Deji is the one who programmed it right?” Matthew asked. He thought for a second and said “Get him on the phone!”
The air was tense as Matthew frantically pushed buttons on the phone as Deji passed instructions. Alhaji was staring down the barrel of a .45mm handgun and Leona couldn’t breathe. Even though she couldn’t explain it, in a second the officer who was pointing a gun at Alhaji was on the ground and Alhaji had the gun and he was pointing at Leona. The tables had turned.
“Leona you picked the losing team” Alhaji said calmly. ” You will lose your mom, your job, everything and for what?”
Leona was cold. Matthew continued pressing buttons and shouting for Deji to hurry up.
“I doubt you will stop that in time” Alhaji said as he looked at Matthew who was sweating profusely. “But I’ll be leaving now; if anyone tries to stop me, she gets a bullet”.
Alhaji escorted Leona out of the cabin completely unaware of the officers on the outside.
” It’s Disarmed ” Matthew screamed from inside and as soon as that happened, an officer jumped Alhaji. They struggled for a few seconds and then all went quiet as a shot fired. Alhaji’s gun had fired in the struggle and everyone paused. After three seconds of looking around, Leona fell to the ground. Alhaji had kept his promise albeit not on purpose. The blood surrounding her had made that clear.
“Idara Mma” Leona heard it as though she was in a dream.
“Momma” she responded
“Oh Idara” her mom said through teary eyes. “That man wanted to kill you for me”
“Momma I’m fine” Leona tried to encourage her mom “where am I?”
“You are in a hostipal” a voice replied. Leona could identify that accent from anywhere. It had a rich Hausa feel to it.
“Malaud you are alright”Leona said as she tried lifting her head to see him but the pain coming from her side said different.
” what happened? What day is it?” Leona had many questions.
“What you need to know is that you saved the day” Matthew answered. “You were shot and you have been unconscious for two days. Alhaji will be tried cor his crimes but the company will be run by the board, your job is safe Leona”
“What of Emeka and Deji?” Leona was eager to catch up.
“They are fine” Matthew replied. “But you have time to catch up with all of them, they may even be a promotion waiting for you at work. For now, you need to rest”.
“You did it Leona” Malaud said with a smile. “Thank you”
“Thank you Malaud” Leona responded. The past few weeks had taken her where she never believed she would go. But what she was most grateful for is the fact that she had the right people to help her through it.