Ogechi Nwobia: Hunter’s Game (Episode 9)
“Take these things off me! I don’t want the surgery anymore.”
Dr. Haliru was torn between relief and confusion as to her sudden change of heart but he did not question her. Rather he did as he was told and soon, Ijeoma was upstanding beside him.
“I need your phone. One last time.”
Dr. Haliru handed the phone over to her in silence.
Ijeoma dialed Leela’s number quickly and took in a deep breath as it began to ring.
“Where are you?”
Her eyes narrowed quickly.
She pursed her lips and rolled her eyes.
“Don’t get dramatic. Give me an exact address.” She listened for a few seconds and nodded.
“Pack your things. I’ll be with you in an hour.”
She hung up and passed the phone to Dr. Haliru.
“This never happened. You will not see or hear from me again, I promise.”
Dr. Haliru nodded, barely able to conceal his relief.
“I just need your car. Maybe for a week or two.”
Dr. Haliiru sighed. He needed the nightmare to be over.
“Fine. Whatever you need.”
“Just the car. I’ll have it back in the parking lot whenever I am done with it.”
Dr. Haliru handed her the keys and she walked briskly out of the room.
He was relieved but only temporarily. He did not know what she was involved in or why she had a sudden change of heart. He also didn’t know whether she would keep her word and not contact him again. That very thought bothered him greatly.
“What do you mean by she’s coming here?”
Uzo looked annoyed and Leela could not understand why.
“She said she would be here in an hour. That’s it.”
“That’s it? Did you even consider how safe it was to give her your father’s address? Did you even think about me and if I want to meet her?”
Leela was taken aback.
“I thought you wanted answers. The woman who has all the answers is on her way here. Why don’t you save your questions for her?”
“I don’t want to meet with her.”
“Don’t make my life any more difficult than it already is Uzo.” Her tone was edgy. She was trying to fight the irritation that was creeping up her spine.
“Don’t make your life difficult? Are you feeling well?! Whose life suddenly got disrupted in the twinkling of an eye? Whose life is in danger? Who has absolutely no one to trust?!” Uzo’s voice rose as he spoke.
“So that’s how you see this? Only your life is in danger? And you have no one to trust?
Do you have any idea what this has been like for me as well? Or do you think this is my everyday reality?”
“I don’t care!” Uzo yelled.
“You signed up for this as an agent! I didn’t! You were trained to live like this, I was not. You have all the information, I do not! And I am tired of you making decisions on my behalf!”
Leela let out a frustrated sound, gripping her head with both hands. She scratched furiously for a few seconds then yelled back.
“Stop being a baby Uzo! I can’t stand it!”
“A baby?” He scoffed.
“You know, I used to think you were the best thing that ever happened to me. And even with all that’s happened in the last few days, I have been struggling with my feelings towards you…”
He shook his head as he spoke.
“Naah. Not anymore. You are a condescending, conceited, disrespectful person. And I want nothing to do with you.”
Leela’s heart constricted in her chest and she struggled to breathe and stay calm.
“There is no need to be overly dramatic Uzo.”
Uzo turned around and walked out of the room, slamming the door shut.
Leela exhaled loudly. She wanted to cry. She badly did. Mostly because Uzo’s words cut deeply but also because the entire situation that had looked promising a few minutes ago had morphed into something so frustrating.
She was angry at Ijeoma but beyond her anger, she needed answers and so when Ijeoma had asked for her location and offered to meet her, she was happy because it meant that the nightmare would soon be over. If she handed Uzo over to his mother then she could be assured somewhat of his safety. After all, if she was contacting her now, she must have a plan in motion.
Why did Uzo have to get so touchy? They had not been able to talk about all that had happened mostly because Uzo had shut her out but when Nathan was kidnapped, he seemed to open up a little and they’d had a few decent conversations. But now this? Why was he so difficult?
Leela walked out of the room and into the kitchen to get a glass of water. Her eyes brimmed with tears. She was tired of the drama. She needed to go home. But where was home, she asked herself. Gbemiga was dead. Home had always been where Gbemiga was. At least for the last 4 years. So where was home in his absence? And what was she going to do when this was over? Worrying about Uzo’s safety and his mother’s disappearance had been an effective distraction from her grief. But if this ended, then she would have nothing to hold on to anymore. Nothing other than the raw grief that gnawed at her chest.
She took a sip of water even as a tear slipped down her cheek.
Uzo paced about the room trying to think. So the woman responsible for the chaos in his life was on her way here. What was he supposed to say or do? He did not want to meet her. He just wanted to have his life go back to normal. And why did Leela feel the need to make decisions on his behalf without consulting him first? His entire life had been spinning out of control since that night of the shooting and he needed to be able to assert himself in some way— to feel like he had a measure of control.
How dare Leela call him a baby! Who did she think she was? He was yet to forgive her for lying to him and betraying him, yet she thought she could speak to him in whatever manner she liked?! It still baffled him to think their entire relationship had been a lie. It was not something he liked to think of. They had gone from being soulmates and best friends to strangers. It upset him that she did not seem bothered by it. How could anyone be so cold and detached?
He picked up a book and sat in bed as he tried to read but his mind would not stop wandering. If the woman who claimed to be his mother was showing up at the house then he would not have a choice but to meet her. He hated being without choices. He tossed the book and lay on his side. He would just wait it out.
In less than an hour, he heard the main door open and shut and then he heard voices. He stood up and walked to the door but paused with his hand on the handle. What was he to go out there to say? There was quiet for a few minutes and his curiosity soon got the better of him.
“It’s really deep and I can’t begin to explain how much…” Ijeoma was saying.
She suddenly looked up as she heard Uzo approaching and stopped. She had seen Uzo on different occasions. His image was plastered in her heart even though they had never spoken, but seeing him standing there in the hallway, something in her heart gave way and she stopped speaking.
Uzo walked into the living room and stood a few feet from her his expression blank.
Ijeoma smiled and moved closer to him. Uzo unconsciously took a step back and Ijeoma’s face fell.
“Uzo, I’m… I…”
“What do you want from me?”
Leela who was emotionally drained made no attempt to participate in the conversation. She took a seat and stared at the both of them.
Ijeoma reached out a hand to Uzo but Uzo declined.
“You haven’t answered my question. What do you want from me?”
Ijeoma smiled nervously.
“You know, I’d rehearsed our very first conversation in my head a million times but it never had this opening.”
Uzo was not amused. He maintained a blank expression and said nothing. Ijeoma sighed.
“Uzo, I am your mother. We… I’d like us to… Maybe if you sat down for a few minutes, we could talk and I would tell you everything you want to know. I imagine you have a lot of questions.”
Uzo folded his arms across his chest then released one of them to scratch his chin.
“First off, you are not my mother. I don’t care what biology says. Secondly, you and I will never have a relationship. So if you had that in your agenda strike it off.”
“Everything I have ever done since you were born has been in your best interests, to protect you.”
“Well done. You did a fine job. Look where we are right now.”
“I don’t know what you think you know about me or what I have done, but I promise you, you do not know the half of what is going on right now.”
“I didn’t think I did. People are dropping dead, I’m getting accused of murder, my supposed girlfriend is a secret agent, my best friend was arrested and tortured. What else am I missing?”
Ijeoma drew in a sharp breath.
“What happened to Nathan?”
Uzo’s face mirrored his surprise.
“You know Nathan?!”
“Of course I know Nathan. I know everything about you son. I have been watching over you since you were a baby.”
“Can you please stop calling me your son?” Uzo’s frown was back.
Leela decided it was time to intervene.
“Okay. I’m sorry to break up your little reunion but Ijeoma, we’ve got work to do and very limited time. Please tell me you have a plan.”
“I have a plan but first, let me explain what’s going on. Uzo, please sit down.”
Uzo did as he was told and Ijeoma commenced her tale.
“I worked for a special group of people known as the Walrus. It’s made up mostly of ex-soldiers. I’m not going to go into details of what we did or why we did them but all you need to know is they are a dangerous set of people…”
Leela interrupted her.
“No. You don’t get to do that. I have followed you blindly before and I nearly went over a cliff. Cards on the table. I need to know what I’m up against.”
“I worked with a group of people who did all the dirty work that politicians required. They started out as being anti-government because corruption was the order of the day in government and the soldiers felt that by opposing the government and causing chaos everywhere, we would return to military rule and make the country a better place.”
Uzo snorted but Ijeoma ignored him and went on.
“Unfortunately, people on the team began to trade values for money so we soon became the tool for politician’s dirty work. Arms dealing, blackmail, thuggery, if it was dirty, Walrus was called in to fix it. And sometimes, when there was no dirt, we were sent out to make things messy. Because when there was a mess, business boomed for the people that mattered.”
Leela held up a hand.
“Wait. Let me get this straight. When you talk about creating a mess, are you referring to some of the internal crises we have experienced in this country?”
Ijeoma nodded, unflinching.
“Jesus!” Leela exclaimed.
“All we needed to do most times was drop a matchstick and someone else would light a fire. Money changed hands, propaganda was set out, business was good.”
Uzo looked like he was about to be sick.
“I can’t believe you gave birth to me!”
Ijeoma ignored him.
“I did what I felt I had to do at the time.”
“Yeah right! You sold your soul to the devil and ruined the lives of innocent people!
So what changed? Why did you wake up one morning and decide to leave? And please don’t tell me you suddenly grew a conscience. That will just make me really mad.” Leela said.
“You need to put a leash on your emotions, Leela. For an agent, you’re really unstable.”
Leela smiled and bit her lip.
“You’re not in a position to gauge my abilities Ijeoma. Don’t even go there.”
“Anyway. You asked what changed. And as strange as it may sound, I grew a conscience. Technically. I had plans to leave with a good friend. We’d been on the team together for years and decided that there was nothing honorable about it anymore. We were thinking of retiring together but they killed him. So I decided I didn’t just want to leave but I wanted to take the entire team down. That is pretty much why we are here now. They found out before I could complete my plan and they went after Uzo because they imagine he’s my Achilles’ heel.”
“Well, they weren’t wrong about that. It’s why you hired me in the first place isn’t it?” Leela said.
“Exactly how deep does Walrus run? Just how many people in the government are involved? And what is your grand plan to take them down?” Leela asked
“A number of governors, some serving senators, and ministers. They all have a stake. I planned to send a detailed report with all my evidence to the president himself and the attorney general of the federation. If he gets wind of it, he would shut down the entire operation.”
“Do you have any idea how idealistic that sounds? Ijeoma, this isn’t a joke. You don’t go against these sort of people on your own. And this was what you sent Gbemiga and me into? A-friggin’ landmine?! It’s amazing Uzo and I are still alive!”
“The Nigerian people elected their leaders democratically. It’s unfair to them that a bunch of random people with no place in the constitution are running the country down.”
Uzo did not know when he burst into laughter. He laughed so hard, he held his sides as he tried to keep from falling over. Ijeoma and Leela looked at him curiously. Leela thought he had finally gone mad.
“Please carry on. This American film is really interesting.”
Ijeoma sighed and Leela massaged her temples.
“Ijeoma, whatever you have planned, there’s no way it will end well. You will be arrested for treason if your old team does not have you killed first.”
“My plan was to get the documents to the presidency and flee the country. I was going to get a facelift and disappear off to Cuba after faking my death. That way, no one would think to come after Uzo. But clearly, things have changed so I’ve had to re-adjust my plan a little bit.”
“Really? And what’s the new plan now?”
“It’s simple. I play their own games against them. Kidnapping and blackmail on the grandest scale ever.”
Leela looked at Ijeoma like she had lost her mind.
“Within the next two weeks, we will organize the biggest kidnap hit ever and the ransom will be our collective safety and freedom for the rest of our lives. If I can’t take the team down, I must at least be able to ensure that my son does not pay for something he knows nothing about.”
It was Leela’s turn to laugh. Ijeoma was clearly out of her mind.