By OBINNA ONWUGBENE
Poorracourt — “A gripping thriller full of fresh troubles…”
AVAILABLE SOONThriller Novel, Thriller Series
Read the First Chapter
HURTING FROM HIS BITTER EXPERIENCE one hour ago, Jideofor dawdled along Hybor Road, where the stench from the overflowing drain rose to meet the familiar toxic smell that hung on the wandering Port Harcourt air. This triggered in him a sense of unhappiness. With dismay, he pinched the bridge of his nose, trying not to take in the air. But after he realized he was suffocating himself, he stopped.
Although Jideofor knew that the happenings around the former MP were expected, one thought occupied his mind. His heart was pounding. He hoped this newly assigned role in the company would not separate him from his family.
With the warm day growing warmer and the gray sky bleached in the sunlight, the concrete road issued an intense heat. The dirty air teemed with trilling notes of bird songs.
When Jideofor turned into the residential estate, he felt his nerves relax, as if where he was heading held the expectation of peace.
For a distance of thirty feet, outside a huddle of civil servant-designed buildings, a puff of sea breeze sighed and brushed past him. Yet Jideofor walked along the barren estate, not understanding that the wind of chaos had gone ahead of him. And it was on a Friday.
He was about to climb up the last tread of the gritty concrete steps leading into the undecorated veranda when he heard a muffled sound inside his pocket.
Although emotionally fragile, Jideofor cannot resist reading his messages to keep abreast of the latest security report about the former MP.
Acting under the premise that it wasn’t the message from his estranged wife, he paused under the hanging lamps in the center of the portico and took out the phone from his pocket, though he didn’t want to take another disappointing message.
He ran his big ebony eyes down the screen, trying to learn more about the message. A few lines enticed him with the expectation of an update about the politician’s schedule.
After he unlocked the screen, his eyes were like magnets gathering in more of the message at a glance. But his hope did not apply this time. An aggrieved male crook had perpetrated the assault.
By the time he finished reading, his craggy face contorted with bitterness. He was stunned by the boldness of the assailant. It was difficult to accept the likelihood that more trouble awaited in the future. He wanted to believe that someone on the staff wasn’t capable of betrayal. Like a bugbear hiding in the harrowing room of his troubled mind, he entertained this fear. Jideofor didn’t know how much longer before something worse happened to the politician.
His mind had always been a busy place. This time, it oscillated between two moods: bitterness for the assailant and apprehension. Since last September when family intimacy ceased to exist in his home, loneliness and disquiet sneaked into his life. This made the tension he felt seem naturally deep. He missed his wife and suffered a peculiar longing. But this longing was more than a feeling. It had significance.
Worried, Jideofor pushed to the door with steps that slapped out a rhythm, wading through a floor with foot-stamped bits of dirt. A strand of sweat cooled his chin.
At the brown steel door, he defeated the deadbolt with his key and twisted the handle.
Opening the door, he crossed the threshold and forgot to bolt it.
Although he wore a multicolored floral Bermuda shirt on navy chinos pants, it could not conceal that this good-looking, athletic man in his late forties was a powerhouse.
Inside. Tick, tick, tick… of the second hand of the wall clock orbiting around the dial called his attention to the time. It was 3:32.
The noon light had grown strong, yet the camouflage-styled draperies over the bone-white aluminum sliding windows withheld its light, allowing a thin thread to reach him.
He thumbed the switch.
Weak yellowish light from the bulbs screwed to the wall brackets loomed in the living room. The convocation of its tiny energy rays exposed the moderate interior décor—untidy wooden arm furniture with waxed cotton fabric in a warm tone of tan, just beside a sofa, sitting on non-slip vitrified floor tiles.
Driven by the sense of pacification, he walked to the CD player sitting on top of an old-fashioned glass-fronted polished mahogany counter at the northwest corner of the living room, as if consolation lived in it. This time, he chose Akon—Birthmark—for comfort, awakening the room from slumber.
After he sat down on the gray leather sofa, southwest of the living room, he crossed one leg over the other. Gradually, his coolness returned, dispelling the portentous mood. He took off his shoes and settled them beside the leather sofa.
Whistling to the tune of the music, he lightened the moment. Presently, he harbored no resentment against his estranged wife. But he worried, instead, about the incident around the former Member of Parliament.
Who wanted to silence the former Member of Parliament?
Since he entered his apartment, he’d not had the mental stability to reflect upon the encrypted message, but now he could no longer turn his mind from it. He sensed responsibility. Worse, a menacing feeling overpowered him, a sharp hunch of an impending threat. He sensed he had work to do.
Nevertheless, Jideofor perceived danger.
He consulted his watch. Five minutes past four o’clock.
Hissing, he weaved through the living room, heading for the dining table at the north end of the room, his leg brushing aside empty beer cans.
Jideofor expected the former MP to be alive and installed king (Igwe). But the creator makes life and death decisions, and it wasn’t within his powers to decide that.
Hot and sweaty, Jideofor blotted his damp palms on his pants. He opted to take off his shirt and be free from the irritation of itching skin. He flung the shirt on the backrest of a dining table chair.
Not accustomed to a quick response when he worked, he dawdled to his laptop on the dining table. A black chest of drawers rested on the pale yellow wall with chipping paint behind the dining table. Jideofor took his time getting his wallet out of his pocket. He pulled out a dining table chair and plopped into it. He was about to review the security protocol stored in the memory stick tucked inside his wallet when the music stopped.
Now the menacing hush reclaimed the house.
Frowning, he tossed the wallet on top of the chest of drawers.
Because he was used to working with the comfort of music, Jideofor got up and headed toward the CD player. By the time he was halfway to the player, he heard unanticipated thuds outside. His sense of impending danger swelled. Anxiety became intensified.
With a dazed look that traveled toward the door, Jideofor’s reflection turned to wariness. He couldn’t discern what it was, but it sounded like a clatter of footsteps—probably someone drawing near the step. A faint stride. Steady.
Jideofor remembered the rumor he’d heard workers gossip about on the construction site he managed—stories of criminals who robbed houses during the daytime.
He hurried back to the dining table, where he picked up his shirt and wore it.
At the table, he lowered the monitor, not entirely shutting the laptop. Ostensibly, the danger was in his mind, the content of the same cognition that made him a successful police detective. Yet his heart was thumping faster than ever.
He adjusted his belt and touched his right hip, where he usually holstered his Browning. When it dawned on him that he no longer carried pistols, he was still as a goalpost.
For now, he relinquished this reality, but not the thought to look around. Jideofor searched for an object: a handy weapon, just in case. When the room offered nothing, he looked inward; seeking to tap ideas from ten years of police training. But this memory was not in tune with present reality. He was unarmed.
The muffled thumps, probably the footsteps of passersby, grew louder and nearer.
He tilted his head toward the door and listened, but that wasn’t the case. The intruder was slowly drawing near to the door.
He was not expecting anyone. There was no reason to presume that someone might be bold enough to rob him at this time of the day. But the front door remained unbolted, and it bothered him.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed forward a few steps to the door to make certain no one was there.
The footfalls seem persistent, closing in on the door.
In a moment, he was at the door. However, he could no longer hear the footfalls echoing off the floor. It ceased.
Jideofor waited for a time that seemed like forever, listening.
There was no sound anymore.
Then he released his breath, feeling he had made a mistake in his hearing, though he was uncertain of that.
After a short while, a sound arose again. This time, something rustled at the door—barely audible—troubling the solemn hush.
Only then did he realize he had company.