A ChrisEffe Bliss
As was so characteristic of her, Effe was soon lost in the great puzzle of what was at hand, and right there it was a murderer with the codename Prodigal.
She forgot the people around her as she read his folder and fed statistics into her special intelligence laptop. Over the years, she had upgraded that database on her laptop with the most sensitive information and sources of extraction.
Highly powerful software and codebreakers were stacked into that laptop, and she had feeds that went as far as the powerhouses of the intelligence agencies worldwide. She had a close-knit family of local and international people, from some of the most powerful intelligence operators to the seedy hackers and small-time crooks found in the dark alleyways of society.
Internationally, she was linked to secret associates in the FBI, CIA, KGB, Interpol and other highly-ranked organizations.
Hers was a source of information and database that the SPF would have been stunned to know. She worked fast, linking up with associates across the world, querying and analysing, putting scenarios into complex algorithms.
She paused once in a while to ask questions.
“So, there were no cameras inside the bathroom where the fight took place?”
Paul Blankson looked up from his own laptop and shook his head with a sigh.
“Against human rights, Effe,” he said calmly. “It is undignified to film people in their showers.”
“What about the cameras on the corridors? Surely, these are allowed, right?”
“They are,” Paul said with a deprecating smile. “Unfortunately, the IT guy claims he forgot to load the backup servers, so the recordings were not logged.”
“I see,” Effe said and returned to her programming.
Conveniently, she had codes and weird languages that she communicated with when working in open space, and so those SPF agents – Paul included – who tried to pass casually behind her with the intention of seeing what she was up to only saw a series of weird characters and scribbles and diagrams.
When they finally arrived at the Eden Maximum Prison, she was given clearance and full access to the prison. Effe was in a frenzy as she visited the bathroom and carefully tabled it out, taking into account the coroner’s sketches on the floor.
Next, she moved to the crematorium and spoke with the staff in charge. She also spoke extensively to the prison commander, Ralph Serto. After almost three hours of going from the grounds of the prison and to the mobile station van to feed new facts into her laptop, Effe finally sighed and shook her head as she sat still behind her laptop.
Her face was extremely cold, and it was evident that she was highly agitated as she silently clicked the shutdown icon and slowly shut down the laptop. She was strung out as she packed the machine into her bag and shut the electronic folder of Chris Bawa, and then she leaned forward and gently massaged her temples.
Paul Blankson and Sir Lance exchanged glances as they watched her. The other staff were silent too as they all focused their attention on the newcomer.
It was late, and the drive back to central KOE would take another hour.
Sir Lance, holding a disposable cup of hot coffee, stood up from the comfortable chair and approached the desk where Effe was sitting.
He sat down gingerly opposite her and took a sip from his cup.
“Well?” he asked softly.
When Effe looked up at him, there was raw fury on her beautiful face. She leaned back slowly and looked at the man she had so much respect for, and whom her fury was aimed at now.
“For starters, Sir Lancelot, I’m not a fool, and I’ve never been a fool!” she said coldly.
He nodded as he took another sip of coffee and set it down slowly.
“You wouldn’t be here if I considered you a fool,” he said gently and spread his hands with his eyebrows raised. “Let me guess, you found out the guy who fought Chris and killed him was an agent of SPF, right?”
Effe’s eyes were still angry as she stared at the elderly man.
“Yes, his name on the file of the prison, David Misah, is false,” Effe said quietly. “Actually, he’s an SPF agent, number forty-nine, nickname Condor.”
She was aware that the other field agents were looking at her with shock.
Paul Blankson stood up sharply and approached the table, and he scowled darkly down at Effe.
“How the hell did you come by that information?” he asked with an iced voice. “That operation was shadowed, with a Dark Project marker! How the hell did you come by that info?”
“Lay off, Paul,” Sir Lance said sharply, and then he turned his eyes on Effe and spread his hands. “Well, my dear, that is indeed very admirable and very unflattering for us. Condor is privileged information but, hey, you got what you wanted, and that shows I wasn’t wrong in drafting you into the SPF. Well, yes, I kept that information from you, and I don’t apologize for it, my dear. I clear people for the information I want them to have, and so let this be the last time you question my motives. Is that clear?”
Effe leaned forward and spoke in clipped tones.
“Then I think we’re done here, Sir Lance!” she said icily. “I don’t want any part of this damn outfit!”
Paul Blankson cursed, but the old man only raised his eyebrows.
“Why, because I kept what I thought was pertinent information from you, young lady?”
“Yes!” Effe said angrily. “I understand protocol, yes, I do. And I understand your motives. But, when I’m given an assignment to undertake, sir, I want all the information on it! I don’t want anything kept from me. That is how I work, and that is what I demand. I decide what is important and what is not!”
“Damn it, Effe!” Paul Blankson interjected angrily and set down his coffee cup hard. “Who the hell do you think you are? You’re new, and you’re bloody dispensable, understand? Do not jump the gun here! We tell you what to do, and you do it!”
“It doesn’t work that way with me!” Effe said and turned her scalding eyes on him. “I demand trust, Paul! That tiny information you keep could make or break the operation! It could mean life and death, do you understand? I work with principles, and my principle is access to every bit of information that would help me achieve my assignment! If you think there’s information I’m not privileged to, you keep the damn assignment and give it to someone who will dance when you play the tune, sir. If you give it to me, I will tell you the kind of music I want to dance to. That’s me. Take it or bloody leave it!”
There was a strained silence in the van, but her anger was so palpable that it shocked all of them, and finally Sir Lance sipped his coffee again and leaned back slowly.
“Effe, I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I didn’t know that about you. You’ve just given me a new look at you, and I must admit I do admire you for your stand and principles. I do regret holding back information from you, and I’m sorry. But listen to this, dear. I will give you the information I think you have to know. Prove to me that you’re principled with information, and my trust in you will grow. Don’t you dare come to me asking for trust when I don’t know who the fuck you really are, do you understand? I don’t work that way, and nobody makes me work that way. So, let’s begin again. I’m sorry and I do regret holding that information from you, but now that I’ve learned to trust you a little, I’ll divulge that information to you. Is that understood?”
Effe sighed and scowled at him.
“I can choose to walk out now, sir,” she said coldly.
“You’re free to walk out, Effe,” Sir Lance said as he sipped his coffee calmly. “But, by the time you reach that door, I’ll order them to shoot you dead.”
Effe gasped and looked at him with shock.
“You will kill me?” she asked in a dry voice.
“Yes, I’ll kill you instantly,” he said as he set down his cup. “You’re SPF now, Effe. Here, the rules are a little different. We say sorry when we want to, and give information when we want to. Don’t worry, you’ll learn all about that soon enough. Now, with that little unpleasantness out of the way, let me tell you about Condor.”
“I’m listening,” she said softly.
“Good,” Sir Lance said with a tiny smile. “Sit down, Paul. You’re crowding me.”
He waited until Paul Blankson drew up a chair and sat to one side of them, still sizzling with anger.
Sir Lance drank more coffee and then set it down gently.
“Ah, good coffee, good coffee,” he said and looked up at Effe. “Chris Bawa should have been killed immediately we caught him, you know. An assassination plot against the King of the Kingdom of Eden is punishable by swift death.”
“So, why wasn’t he killed?” Effe asked softly. “Still because of the Queen’s wishes? Or because Princess Gwendoline loved him?”
Sir Lance sighed and rubbed his forehead warily.
“Prodigal wasn’t killed because the queen didn’t want him to die, yes,” Sir Lance said with a cold smile. “And the princess didn’t want him to die, yes. They were merciful to him because he had been a part of their family for a long time, and yes, they grew to like him. Chris Bawa is a very likeable fellow.”
“And so, was that the plan? Keep him locked up for five years and then send an assassin to finish him off?”
“No, that was not the plan,” Sir Lance said. “The plan was to keep him locked up forever, and keep a strong eye on him. But it all changed when we picked up intelligence that his external partners were planning to break him out of prison and still go ahead with the original plan. The king was made privy to the info, and he finally agreed that Prodigal should die, but in an accident so that it wouldn’t upset the queen and princess. So, we sent in Condor, one of our best agents.”
“Best?” Effe said with cold disdain. “He was a GojuFist expert, according to the info I garnered! Did he know that Prodigal wrote your training manual of GojuFist as captured in the folder? You sent the servant after the master! It was a mismatch! Condor was dead from the word go, sir!”
“No!” Sir Lance said tersely. “Don’t jump to conclusions, young lady. Condor was proficient in GojuFist, and he mastered other techniques too. He was a master of Wing Chun, Aikido and Kung Fu. We were sure he stood a pretty good chance against Prodigal if he could just nick his skin with the poisoned knife!”
“And we believe Condor succeeded,” Paul Blankson said coldly. “He lost his life, unfortunately, but he succeeded in doing what he was sent to do! And that is the most important thing, isn’t it?”
Effe looked at him with contempt.
“This poison that Condor put on the knife, was it the novel VX extract?” she asked quietly.
“Fuck!” Paul Blankson interjected acidly and glared at her. “How the fuck did you know that? Where do you get your damn information from, Effe?”
Sir Lance’s face was dark too as he leaned forward.
“VX is secret and unapproved, Effe,” he said quietly. “That is why the order was for the bodies to be cremated immediately and anybody who came into contact with them hurriedly vaccinated. It is contagious, and could cause a deadly outbreak if not checked!”
Effe put her head to one said as she looked at the Director of the Kingdom security forces.
“Chris has part of his training in Thailand, sir,” she said softly. “Chris Bawa was there underground, on covert operations. My Thai source recognized a mugshot of Chris that I sent to him. According to him, Chris trained with a Master Thai fighter called Shah Ja. One of the training chapters was in making the body immune to most poisons. Apparently, over the years, Chris Bawa went through the process, and so he is largely immune to most deadly poisons!”
“Oh shit!” Paul Blankson said in a horrified voice. “Damn!”
“Are you sure of this?” Sir Lance asked in a voice that had become quite unsteady.
“Yes,” Effe said warily. “When I spoke to Chaplain Danso inside the prison, he confirmed that Chris and Condor were pronounced dead when they were taken to the crematorium. Because both were going to be burnt, they were in the same casket. He was given the call about what had happened, and he left his quarters and came to the crematorium. It took him about forty-five minutes to get there. And he had to wait about forty minutes more because the electricity went off, and it took that long to get the power plant to work. The casket was in the crematorium unguarded for that long. When the power came on, he just went right ahead to push knobs that moved the casket through the process. At no time did he check if there were two bodies inside the casket because he had been told the bodies were contagious.”
Sir Lance was looking absolutely sick now as he put an unsteady hand on his forehead.
“Make me understand!” he said gravely. “What does it really mean?”
“I believe Prodigal was too strong for Condor. He somehow managed to overpower Condor and killed him. Because Prodigal knew the knife was laced with poison, he could have nicked himself with the knife, and been rendered temporarily comatose or unconscious. They were taken to the crematorium, where he regains consciousness. Left all alone, he tripped the electricity, well aware that it would take some time for the chaplain to come along and the power plant to be switched on. He had about one hour twenty minutes. The ashes from the crematorium are usually left to drift down a seventy-foot chute to the culvert below which joins the sea.”
“But the waters are electrified!” Paul Blankson screamed loudly.
“You didn’t just hear Effe say there was a power outage that day, did you?” Sir Lance asked acidly, and Paul threw up his hands in a resigned fashion.
Sir Lance looked at Effe with hard eyes and spoke.
“So, you believe that Chris made his way through the sewers to the sea? Those sewers are infested with crocodiles, and the exits to the sea have strong pillars welded into horrifyingly thick concrete and short of heavy explosives, no one can make their way to the open seas from the sewers!”
Effe nodded and leaned forward.
“I examined the sewers, sir, and I know Prodigal knew exactly what he was doing,” she said calmly. “There’s a landing sixty feet down the chute, and a narrow passage that links the drainage systems from the prison’s parking lot to the sewers. If Chris was able to make his way through that system without falling into the crocodile cesspit, he could have worked his way back into the yard where there were a number of cars and vans parked. My guess is that he chose the laundry van which carries laundry from the yard to the laundry building four hundred metres away, without any proper checking. If he entered the van and hid in the clothing, he could have jumped out as soon as he was out of the prison yard.”
“So, you think Prodigal could have escaped?”
“No,” Effe said calmly. “I don’t think he escaped. I am certain he’s out there now. Chris Bawa didn’t die. He’s out.”
“Sir,” Paul Blankson said in a staggering voice. “Fine, she is making a lot of sense, but we should proceed carefully from here. No need to alarm…”
Sir Lance fixed him with a very deadly look.
“Shut the fuck up, Paul,” he said coldly and got to his feet as his eyes roamed the van. “What are you lazy cocoons waiting for? I want you to send out the Red Alert on Chris Eden Bawa! Wanted for treason against the kingom! Splash his pictures all over the internet, social media, televisions, newspapers, every-goddamn-where! Very dangerous! Rope in the BKI, the police, the army, all the private security setups! Shoot him on sight, shoot to kill! A million Kichas for information leading to his arrest! Do to it now!”
There was a frenzy of activity as the operatives rushed into their seats, and a moment later Chris Bawa’s face was splashed all across the screens in the van as the alert went out.
Sir Lance removed his coat and looked at Effe with stunned eyes.
“Tell me, my dear, give me something!” he said gravely. “If that boy is loose, we’re all dead! He’s going straight to his plans, and the lives of the royal family, and ordinary Edenites are in grave danger because he’s a sick man! Can you narrow it down? Where do you think he will be?”
Effe licked her lips and leaned forward.
“I read a lot about him, about how he loves his son, and yes, I remember you telling me how dedicated he is in keeping to his promises,” she said softly. “If that is right, then his first call would be to his son and the boy’s mother, this Elsie-Mina. I’m sure he’ll go to them first. Chris Bawa would be at his residence right now.”
“Get me a chopper right now!” Sir Lance shouted. “Paul, get the Beachway police chief immediately! I want as many cops as he could get on the residence of Elsie-Mina! Go, go, go! Effe, come with me! We’ll use the chopper! Where’s my damn chopper, you bastards?”
“Four minutes away, sir!” an operative yelled out.
“Alright, let’s get this started! And somebody get Carl Acquah! Tell him to haul his arse to Elsie’s place because Prodigal is on the loose!”
Effe stood up and hoisted her bag.
There was ice in her heart!
If this beast that killed her brother was alive, she wanted to see him gunned down in the worst way possible, and she knew they would catch Chris with his family!
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