Click here to read the previous chapter; Behind Her Smile – Chapter One, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Two, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Three, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Four, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Five, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Six, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Seven, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Eight, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Nine, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Ten, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Eleven, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Twelve, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Thirteen, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Fourteen
CHAPTER FIFTEEN (FINALE)
I was supposed to feel relief after the final paper, right? Then why were my hands shaking incessantly and why was my heart threatening to pound its way out of my body? My knees knocked together as I took shaky steps towards the cafeteria. It was like a routine to eat after every exam but even as I requested a personal favourite of mine, Ofada rice and sauce I could barely eat more than a spoonful, make that two. I brought out my phone and checked the message from Anna.
I’ve got Leo’s hall name and room number. I’ll forward it to you.
This was soon followed by another message from her where both were stated. I was still checking the message when I felt a presence behind me.
“You nearly scared me,” I frowned at Kolade who took a seat opposite me.
“Scaredy cat,” He grinned, holding a plate of steaming Pounded Yam and Egusi soup.
“I said nearly.”
“Sure, you did,” He teased.
“You’re looking more like yourself today,” I remarked.
“What do you mean?” He asked as he washed his hands in preparation for the meal. “Did I look like someone else before?”
“All this sarcasm isn’t attractive you know.”
“I was under the impression that you couldn’t even be attracted to me?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Whatever,” I shook my head. “Anyway, I meant that you looked tense before, even Anna noticed it.”
“Just exams and all,” He shrugged.
“Well, you can relax now, it’s over.”
“I don’t think so,” He had a faraway look in his eyes and I got the feeling that he wasn’t referring to exams anymore.
I decided to change the topic.
“So what do you think about the missing guy, Yusuf?” I asked.
Kolade coughed once, twice, grabbed the water beside him and gulped it down his throat. I leapt up and got behind him to slap his back, not sure if it would help but I saw people do it often.
“What the heck do you think you’re doing?” He gasped for breath.
“I thought it would help, okay?” I stepped back.
He tossed me an annoyed glance and I looked away as I sat down. He didn’t speak again until he had finished his food. I managed to go halfway through mine by the time he was done.
“I’ve got to go,” He said. He gave me one last look before he stood.
“Okay, see you later.” The words were barely out of my mouth before he walked away. When he left, I realized he never answered my question about Yusuf.
The following day, my alarm blared loudly in my ears and my arm shot out immediately to turn it off. I’d barely slept a wink and felt wide-awake. Usually, I would make up for it by sleeping in but sleep evaded me.
“Precious,” Anna’s voice whispered in the semi-darkness. “Are you awake?”
“Yes, you couldn’t sleep either, huh?” I asked.
“Is it that obvious?” She yawned.
I chuckled quietly.
“We’re really doing this, aren’t we?” She said.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, we are.”
I got out my phone and initiated the first part of the plan. I’d saved the number Leo used to call me for future purposes, mainly avoidance so that I never pick up his call again by mistake. But if you’d told me back then that I’d be the one to willingly contact him, I’d say you should get your head checked however, look at me now. I tapped on the message icon it was too early to call.
We need to talk.
I tapped send and waited for the delivery notification. Less than 10 minutes later, I got a reply.
Did you miss me, my Precious?
I shuddered in disgust.
I waited for a few seconds this time.
I’m not on campus. Can it wait till I get back in a couple of days?
Typical, he’d left campus to go and do who knows what. Several students had already started leaving as soon as they submitted the final paper. I’m not kidding a guy actually walked straight out of the exam hall, picked up his box that was waiting outside the hall and walked out of the school gates. One would think he’d been kept a prisoner. But this wasn’t what Anna and I planned, leaving campus was dangerous. We would be on safe grounds here. I sighed and typed another message. I had to risk it.
How about I come and meet you outside campus?
I winced. That didn’t sound like me at all. Would he suspect anything?
Eager, aren’t you?
I rolled my eyes and maintained my patience.
As if, no jokes, I’m serious.
Okay, I’ll text you an address. Meet me there.
I released a breath I didn’t realize I was holding.
The address wasn’t familiar. I frowned and decided to Google it. It was for a hotel and hangout spot in Osogbo. I groaned and placed my head in my hands. What had I gotten myself into? I decided to let Anna know. We both left the room for some privacy.
“Well, that throws a wrench in the works, this wasn’t supposed to happen. If that’s a hotel then it can’t possibly be Orion’s operation base.”
“Unless, of course, they’ve got a whole hotel under their control,” I chipped in.
“That doesn’t sound very likely.” She frowned. “But, I guess we can consider it.”
“You know what this means?” I asked.
“It isn’t safe to go by ourselves, if the most basic step of our plan already didn’t go as we envisioned then we’re going to need back up.”
“You’re right.” She nodded. “You think we should involve the school authorities?”
“We have to, at least that way, someone would know where to find us or if things go bad, then they will find our bodies.”
“Don’t say stuff like that Precious, you’re creeping me out.”
“Okay, fine. This is now bigger than we can handle, we’re involving the school authorities,” I agreed.
“Did he give you a time to meet?” She asked.
“No, he didn’t. He’s probably going to be there for a few days since he didn’t specify a time.”
“Alight, as soon as it’s 8 am we’ll go to the admin office and see if we can speak with the VC directly, they have to know it’s important and we aren’t kidding about it.”
I nodded in agreement and we returned to the room, as I pushed the door open I came face to face with Ada who had an enraged look on her face, Nafisa was right behind her.
“What?” Anna and I chorused.
They pulled us into the room and locked the door.
“Are you girls, nuts?” Ada hissed. “Nafisa and I noticed you two have been acting strange all week, very secretive and jumpy. We decided to pay close attention. Surely, you’re trying to get yourself killed?”
“What do you mean?” Anna rolled her eyes.
“Do you guys realize I almost died a couple of weeks ago? That accident was planned by Leo’s gang and do you want to know what’s even worse?”
I stared at her silently as she continued.
“Yusuf, the guy who’s missing now, was a member of The Fugitives and he was one of Zach’s right-hand men. After the accident, Zach was furious because I was nearly killed. He sent Yusuf on a mission where he was to kill one of Leo’s right-hand men named TJ who was a skilled tracker and assassin so that Leo would know what it means to lose someone, especially considering the fact that TJ was an asset. He was successful at it and he decided to go on one more mission, to get Leo himself but that failed and I’m a hundred per cent convinced that Leo killed him.”
“But you said you didn’t even know who Yusuf was when I asked,” Anna said. She shook her head in annoyance. “The authorities need information and you’re keeping this to yourself?”
“I lied,” Ada shrugged.
“How do you think Leo has gotten away with everything for so long? He’s got moles everywhere, even on our campus!” Nafisa chipped in.
“Exactly,” Ada said.
“But we need to try,” I insisted. “If we take it directly to the VC he could involve the Police.”
She looked doubtful for a moment.
“I don’t want to see you two get hurt.”
“More people will get hurt if we don’t do something.”
Ada and Nafisa exchanged a glance.
“We want to help,” Nafisa said. “My uncle can help us. He’s a Divisional Police Officer he’ll take us seriously. I’ll call him.”
“I… I’ll contact Zach and see if he has any useful info on Leo.”
I knew that it would be hard for her to talk to Zach since they parted ways.
“Okay, since you girls are up for it, here’s the plan so far.”
Anna went ahead to fill them in on what we had agreed on so far. I excused myself and stepped out of the room, taking my phone along with me. I had to call them, I simply had to.
“Mom?” I asked when she picked up.
“Yes honey,” She yawned. “You’re calling so early, is everything okay?”
“I just wanted to hear your voice, how’s dad?”
“He’s fine, he’s still asleep. Are you sure everything is okay?”
“Um, yeah there are just a few things I need to take care of and I just…”
I held back a sob. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell her, I remembered all they’d passed through after the incident years ago. All the bills they had to pay for therapy, homeschooling, the medical treatments, the nights I couldn’t sleep because of the nightmares, I’d wake up to find mom beside me, her eyes red and tired from lack of sleep all because of me. Dad had to keep away all the male workers that used to come around our house and there were some days, he had to stay away from me too because no one knew when I would throw a fit or have another panic attack. They’d gone through a lot because of me, this was one thing I wanted to do for them and for myself.
When I returned to the room, Anna was through with all the explanation but now there were changes since we had to involve a lot more people than we planned.
“I’ve called my uncle, he said he’s sending some policemen over to escort us.”
“Won’t that draw too much attention? We need to be discrete,” I said.
“We also need to be safe,” Nafisa pointed out. “Anyway, they’ll be in civilian disguise so they won’t raise any alarm.”
“I let Isaac know about the changes and he says it’s a much better plan than what we had in mind,” Anna said.
“I admit, I feel much more assured that this will work,” I nodded. “The evidence we planned on getting to expose them from my single visit to Leo wouldn’t have been enough. They need to be caught red-handed.”
“Isaac also sent an address for the real base for Orion he said if he knows Leo well enough, he’ll go there in a couple of days. No Capon leaves the base unattended to for so long without checking up on things.”
“Then I guess I’d better call Zach and see how he can help.”
She turned to leave the room but Anna suddenly spoke up.
“Calm down, I didn’t say I was getting back together with him.” With that, she left.
“I’m worried about her,” Anna sighed.
“She’s a big girl, she can handle it,” Were Nafisa’s words.
After a while, Ada returned to the room. Her expression was blank although I noticed her sigh quietly.
“I spoke to Zach and he said Leo’s been getting some new recruits, he said it could be anyone on campus. If we can find out who it is, we could use them to our advantage. It’ll be easier to deal with them than the boss on top.”
“We don’t have much time to start going on a wild goose chase without any leads, I say we stick to the former plan. If we have Police backing and that of the university authorities, we have a better chance at this thing.”
I had to agree with Nafisa.
“I agree we can’t start looking for who the new recruits are.”
“Okay fine,” Ada shrugged.
“I’ve got to postpone this meeting with Leo, I can’t just walk in there now, not with all the changes,” I said.
The girls agreed so I sent him a text.
Can I see you tomorrow?
I waited for his reply.
I’m always available to you, my Precious.
I tried to suppress the shiver of absolute disgust that raised the hairs on my skin.
“He’s taken the bait. Tomorrow it is.”
The following day, everything was set and I was ready to go.
“Why do I get the feeling that we dodged a bullet yesterday?” Anna said.
“That’s because we probably did.”
“Are you ready?” She asked.
I took in a deep breath and replied, “Absolutely.”
“Wait!” Anna called. “Give me your phone.”
“Why?” I asked, confused.
“Just give me, this might come in handy.”
After I unlocked my phone, I handed it to her and she tapped away at it for a while before handing it over to me.
“What did you do?” I raised an eyebrow.
“I just took a few necessary precautions make sure you always have your phone directly on you,” She shrugged before she propelled me out of the room. “Now go and save the day!”
I rolled my eyes and left.
Just in case, something went wrong, I sent a text message to Cynthia, my former therapist. I told her to alert my parents if I don’t get back to her within 24 hours. I knew she had a lot of questions for me but I chose not to dwell on that.
The police vehicle pulled up in front of a dingy looking hotel and I shuddered at the thought of stepping foot into that place. The Policemen had chosen a nondescript car to use so that they wouldn’t draw too much attention. They had agreed to give me a head start of about 10 minutes to locate Leo while they waited nearby in case I was in danger. Meanwhile, another team of Policemen was headed to Orion’s base, fully armed and ready.
“Hello,” I said to the receptionist. “I’m here to see someone.”
Her eyes lazily went up and down the length of my body. I could imagine what she was thinking. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other in discomfort.
“Good day,” She drawled. “Who would you like to see?”
“I have an appointment with a friend of mine, his name is-”
“You made it.”
I turned in surprise to find him standing behind me.
“Yes darling,” He smirked. “I’ll take it from here, thanks, Rebecca.”
The receptionist gave him a sultry smile before she picked up a magazine and ignored both of us. Leo took me by the arm and steered me in another direction.
“Where are we going?”
“Follow me and you’ll see.”
My knees shook as my legs carried me unsteadily. My panic increased when he took an exit at the back of the building and led me to a car that was parked by the side of the road.
“I thought you said we would meet here?” I jerked my arm out of his grasp.
“Correct, however, I didn’t say we were staying here.” His jovial expression faded into a cold look. “Get in the car, Precious.”
“No,” I said firmly.
He laughed in disbelief and took a few steps closer one of his hands went around my back, pulling me close and the other held something cold and hard to my ribcage. My body froze in fear as I realized I was in more danger than I’d imagined. To anyone who passed by, it would look like we were in a warm embrace but we both knew better.
“Now, listen to me carefully, I really don’t want to have to waste you out here in public. You’re looking very beautiful today after all, so kindly get in the car if you don’t want any accidents to happen.”
I nodded and did as he said.
“Was it that difficult?” He grinned.
Moments later, he drove off. That left me wondering what kind of trap I’d landed in and if I was going to get out in one piece. We arrived in a very quiet neighbourhood which was nearly isolated. Only a few houses were visible and they were far apart except for little shacks that could be seen, but my guess is that they were probably just where stuff was sold. I looked out for street signs but I wasn’t familiar with any of them, nonetheless, I took note of the name of the street we were on.
“Come on in, Princess.”
He led me into a duplex that seemed pretty normal on the outside but once I stepped in, every fibre of my being screamed at me to get out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because the cold metal pressed into the side of my rib cage again.
“Where are we?” I asked as we stepped into a well-furnished living room.
I half-expected this to be Orion’s base but I didn’t see anyone else about. It was like it was just the two of us in the whole building. Surely, if this was it then there’d be more people.
“You must have already guessed it,” He turned to grin at me. “It’s just us. This is my house, I hope you like it because who knows if our kids will grow up here someday.”
I hissed in disgust and didn’t bother to hide the repulsion that was evident on my face. I hadn’t seen this coming, no one had, so it wasn’t planned for. His grin dimmed and his expression dropped back into a cold one.
“I see you aren’t too eager about the idea.”
“What do you expect?” I sneered.
“You’re starting to sound like a broken record, it was years ago. Get over it.”
I just gaped at him in disbelief.
“You aren’t serious are you?” I asked. “I should get over it. You never even apologized yet you ruined my life, not that a stupid apology would’ve made a difference anyway!”
He gave me a condescending look before he spoke.
“Let’s get something straight. You weren’t all that special and you still aren’t special now. So you were just a means to an end. I needed power and you were a necessary tool which just happened to be convenient at the time.”
His words pierced deep and I stumbled slightly on my feet as it hit me in full force.
“You’re a sick bastard Leo, that’s what you are.”
“Such colourful words coming from you,” He smiled. “By the way, I know all about your little plan. No one would find us here so forget about your police escort that was waiting at the hotel.”
At that moment, nothing was louder than the sound of my heart beating furiously against my ribcage.
“Wh-what?” I stuttered.
“That’s right darling, it’s going to be just you and me. It could be like old times, in fact, why don’t we recreate some old memories?”
I quickly put some distance between us as I darted behind a sofa, “Leo no.”
“Oh come on, you look even way better than you did when we were in secondary school, quite tempting really. I see you’ve got some curves on you now.”
“Leo, stay away from me!” I grabbed the closest thing to me to use for defence. It turned out to be a vase full of flowers.
“What do you plan to do with that?” He chuckled. “Although, it’s quite a romantic gesture don’t you think?”
In response, I smashed the vase on the wall and held onto a jagged piece of it. I pointed it in his direction, daring him to come any closer. Something in his expression changed when he saw that I was serious and wasn’t afraid to hurt him.
“Don’t be stupid, bullets are much faster. I could kill you in a second.”
I said nothing but kept my arm steadily pointed in his direction. If I blinked, I would’ve missed it. Leo’s arm shot out to swipe my arm out of the way but I dodged it by ducking low and instead, I used the opportunity to stab at him. He grabbed the side of his abdomen in surprise and his face turned nasty. He yelled in anger and pulled out his gun. I ran. It was a mad chase as furniture and decorations exploded when he shot at me. The noise made my ears ring and I didn’t know how much longer I would survive in an unfamiliar environment. Leo knew his own house better than I did. I grabbed the door and jerked it open, just managing to throw my body down to the ground as another shot rang out. There was a gaping hole in the front door where I had been a few moments ago. I crawled desperately out of the way when I suddenly felt my body being dragged up and pulled around the corner of the house. My scream was muffled by a hand and I tried in vain to bite off the owner’s fingers.
A familiar voice whispered for me to be quiet and my body froze as I quit struggling. I leaned against him as I suddenly felt drained of energy. His hands released their hold on me and I turned my head to look at him.
“Isaac, you came?”
“I had to.”
“But,” I shook my head in a daze. “How did you know?”
“Good thing you always have your phone on you.” He grinned quickly.
Just as soon as he finished his sentence, he pushed me back behind him. I felt something hard press against my thigh and I had no doubt that it was cold, dangerous and made of metal. Moments later, Leo’s footsteps could be heard as he approached us.
“Well, look at that,” He sneered. “Don’t you two look downright cosy with each other?”
Isaac didn’t say a word but I felt his muscles tense under my fingers as I held onto him.
“I’d hate to kill you along with her, man,” Leo said as he took a few more steps towards us.
“The Police are on their way Leo, don’t be stupid.”
Isaac spoke in a low voice as he subtly tried to move me out of sight and more securely behind him.
“What makes you think I care, I’d rather kill you both before they find me then.”
Leo raised his arm higher, the one that held the gun, it was pointed at us and I knew Isaac would suffer the first blow…unless I did something.
“Don’t do this man,” Isaac tried to convince him.
Isaac was armed, I knew that. I’d felt the metal and guessed the gun was safely tucked into his waistband. I could see from how tense he was and how strained his voice sounded that he was trying at all cost to avoid using it. He wanted to live clean after his days of bloodshed but it didn’t seem like today would be one of those days. I contemplated for a moment. What if I got the gun before he did? Then he wouldn’t have to shed any blood. But did I have the strength to do it? To kill someone else, even someone as horrible as Leo?
My hand crept close to his waistband where the gun was and just as I touched the lower area on his back, I felt his body grow even tenser if that was possible as if he realized what I planned to do. He shook his head subtly although he didn’t look at me I ignored his message and crept closer as my hand touched the gun.
“Too late Isaac,” Leo’s words broke the silence and I watched as he pulled the trigger.
Isaac moved incredibly fast. I felt my body being pushed out of the way as he went in the opposite direction. Leo missed the target.
“Close your eyes Precious,” Isaac said.
I didn’t get a chance to do so and my eyes were still wide open when he aimed at Leo and pulled the trigger. This time, the bullet hit its mark. Leo clutched at his chest as blood seeped between his fingers from the gaping hole that was just above his heart.
“You should know that I never miss Leo,” Isaac walked over to him and kicked his gun far away from him. “I spared you because I want you to face court, where the parents of those you’ve murdered will look you in the eye and you can see the pain you’ve caused them as the judge decides your fate. Maybe the burden of guilt will revive your dead conscience.”
Not long after, the Police arrived on the scene along with paramedics who took Leo away. Isaac wrapped me up in his arms where I still shivered despite the blanket I’d been given.
“You’re just in shock, you’ll be fine,” He said.
I believed him after all, I’d been through worse and survived.
The events that followed after that day produced a rollercoaster of emotions.
When I returned to campus, I found it abuzz with gossip. Curious, I asked around and one of my course mates told me that Kolade had come forward with information on Yusuf, how he had been kidnapped and murdered by Orion. It got out in the open that Leo was the leader of Orion and that led to the discovery of more cultists on campus and their disgrace. As many of them that were discovered were rounded up and taken to jail with the help of Nafisa’s uncle. Ada was heartbroken to watch Zach being taken away too but they were both resigned to their fate.
“This came for you.”
Nafisa handed me an envelope with my name written on it.
“Who sent this?” I asked.
“Kolade’s roommate Akan asked me to give this to you,” She said before she left the room.
I sat on my bed, opened the envelope and pulled out the letter inside. My gaze scanned the words written in what seemed like a rushed manner, I could guess from the scrawled handwriting.
I’m just going to force myself to say this because I can’t bear the guilt anymore. I was the one who told Leo about you and Anna’s plan. I’ve been keeping tabs on you for him and although he threatened me, I still admit that I was a coward for betraying my friends. I was recently recruited into Orion and ever since I’ve found myself doing things I wasn’t proud of. That’s why I avoided you and the others, I couldn’t bear being in the company of friends that I’d already stabbed in the back. I wanted to do something right for once so I decided to let the university authorities and the Police know about what really happened to Yusuf and several other people who fell into Leo’s hands.
I’m really sorry and I desperately hope you and the others would forgive me.
I shut my eyes and sighed after reading it. Oh Kolade, why? I thought of how I would break the news to the others and I knew they definitely wouldn’t take it lightly.
Leo’s court hearing was a couple of weeks later, all the families and individuals that had been hurt by the cult’s activities came forward to press charges, my family and I were there too, I decided to press charges for the rape and assault that Leo committed. My parents were hurt that I’d never told them what was going on but they supported me and encouraged me to testify against Leo in court. It was never too late for justice to be served. Yusuf’s mother was there, dressed in black mourning clothes and wiping at her eyes every few minutes. I learned Yusuf had been the only child to his widowed mother, now she was all alone. There was a moment of silence as the judge prepared to read out Leo’s sentence.
“Leonard Daniels, you are hereby sentenced to death by firing squad. You will be taken from here to the execution ground.”
We all stood as the judge left the hall. My gaze went to Leo whose face betrayed nothing. It was completely void of emotion. I noticed that no one came to see him off, not even a family member. It made me wonder if they were too ashamed of him or they didn’t care at all. I wasn’t sure how I felt about watching him being executed but I followed the crowd to the execution ground.
I felt a presence behind me and turned to find Isaac staring at the pole Leo was tied to. The two men exchanged a glance that I knew held a lot of meaning. The military men took their position and aimed just before they fired, Isaac whispered into my ear.
“You don’t have to look,” He said.
But just like before, I did anyway. An array of bullets pierced Leo’s body as bursts of red spilt from his organs in different directions. I knew he was dead even before they stopped firing. The crowd slowly dispersed but my feet were stuck to the ground. Isaac took me by the shoulders and led me away when two Police officers approached us. He tensed and stepped away from me.
“I have to go now.”
He simply sighed.
“I’ve done a lot of bad things too Precious it’s about time I owned up.”
“What, no, you can’t be serious. You’re nothing like Leo! He was a monster but you aren’t.”
“I’ve hurt people too, Precious,” He glanced at the officers who were much closer now.
“Isaac, please,” I whispered as my eyes filled with tears.
“I never got the chance to say it but I guess I can’t worry too much about perfect timing now,” He took in a deep breath and smiled. “I love you Precious, I’m in love with you and that’s never going to change.”
I was sobbing now and simply grabbed him in a tight hug.
“I love you too,” I whispered.
“Young man, please come with us.” They held up their badges and took him by his arm.
I sank to my knees and just cried. I didn’t care about those that were watching. That was how my parents found me later.
“Honey,” She said as she pulled me to my feet “Who was that young man with you?”
I didn’t know what to say because the words simply wouldn’t come.
There was nothing keeping me back on campus now, Leo had been sorted out and I was free to go home. I needed the change of environment. I needed the fresh air and I needed to gather myself again. I hugged Anna, Nafisa and Ada goodbye before I got in the car with my parents. They’d personally come to pick me up and decided not to let me out of their sight.
It was a month before they decided to give me some freedom. With their permission, I went to see Isaac who I heard from Anna was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, coupled with the fact that he’d shot at Leo although they had acknowledged it as self-defence. I thought about how I’d come close to taking that shot myself before he realized what I planned to do and shot Leo instead. Would I have been the one in Police custody, telling them it was self-defence?
I felt it was unfair. Isaac had changed his ways and tried hard to live a life free from crime and cultism. He’d even given God a chance. Yet he’d risked it all for me and put himself at the mercy of the law. He had a conscience and was truly sorry for what he did in the past and that was something Leo never had.
I didn’t know what kind of person Isaac would be when he got out and I didn’t know if we had a future together or not. But one thing I did know was that I’d fallen in love with him and despite how unlikely it was that we’d be happy together, I’d support him all the way as long as he needs me.