Michael got back to the church and picked his daughter, he thanked the preacher and his wife then left to stay at a hotel in town. There were lots of barricades and blockades around town with lots of police checkpoints increasing but there was no word or speech from the mayor nor the president of the country over the matters happening in the nation, the president had attended a World Leaders Security Summit abroad before the chaos started and was yet to come back. On the television was news and footage of the presence of the Red Cross, the United Nations, and speeches from the secretary general and other prominent people around the world concerning the events unfolding around the globe. However, the disturbing occurrences did not stop the people in the city from living their lives in the normal way they could. At the hotel where Michael and his daughter stayed, there were parties, and even weddings and wedding receptions taking place as well.
Many people were moving in and out of the hotel, Michael then spotted his long time high school friend, Paul. He and Paul once worked in the same company after their graduation from the university, the two grew up in the same town and were roommates throughout their stay at the university and they lived like brothers. They embraced each other, it had been long since they last saw each other. Paul asked about Jana but got a cold response from Michael and Gillian. Minutes later, Michael narrated what happened to Paul as it shocked him for he could not believe his ears, he apologised for not keeping in touch and sympathized with his friend for he felt the heavy burden and bereavement upon Michael.
Paul introduced Michael to Samantha, his second wife, whom he met and married abroad. Paul was married to a different woman about the same time Michael and Jana got married but she left him for another man, he was a hardworking man and travelled a lot but his ex-wife had no room for his commitment to work amongst other reasons, so she left him. Paul didn’t want to go into details about what happened and Michael understood.
Later that night, Michael and Paul went down the bar together, leaving Samantha with Gillian in the same room watching a soap opera on TV. After a few drinks, Michael learned that Samantha had been a kind and supportive friend to Paul after his wife left him, there was no official divorce arrangement between Paul and his ex-wife and he waited for long and she never came back. So three years after his first wife left him, on hearing she had already given birth with another man, he decided to settle down with Samantha and they got married.
Paul and his first wife never had kids and he explained to Michael that he and Samantha came to town on an assignment Paul was on and were planning to leave the very day chaos hit the town and the couple decided to hang around till things settled down, hopefully.
After a long chat, Samantha and Gillian came down from the hotel room and joined the men. Samantha, sitting next to Paul, released an aura of happiness and respect between the couple, the love birds could not hide their affection for each other in the presence of Michael as the four of them chatted over, so Michael excused himself taking his daughter, they went up to their hotel room leaving the two to enjoy the evening.
Michael got a call from the detective that night to come to the station in the morning, as he hung up, he reached for the remote to change the channel and was shocked by the breaking news—there was an obituary picture of Cannon Johnson Sr. On seeing it, Michael picked his phone quickly and dialled Clara, she was drowning in tears as she spoke to him, trying to put words together, she explained how some unknown gunmen attacked Cannon Johnson Sr. on his way back that evening. She explained that as the old man and his driver stopped at the red light, another car drove by them with two armed men halfway out of the car window and fired shots at Cannon Sr., driving off, leaving the scene in a pool of blood and bullet shells. They both were pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. Michael hung up the phone. Disconcerted, without saying a word, he turned and looked at his daughter who just stepped out of the bathroom to brush her teeth, and she came to him and held him looking up into his eyes, he smiled and she smiled back. Michael blocked her view from the television, he neither wanted her to see or talk about another death for his wish was not to sadden his daughter anymore. The old man was her godfather before he passed away, so Michael decided to ease it up on Gillian, the young woman had had enough to bear and needed peace.
Gillian invited her father to kneel along with her by the bed so they would pray, he did but reluctantly. Gillian prayed and after she said amen, she elbowed Michael lightly so he would respond amen as well which he did and then tucked her to bed with a warm kiss on her forehead.
‘I love you, Daddy,’ she said.
‘I love you too, sweetie!’ Michael replied.
The next day Michael and Gillian went down to the station, detective Samuel with his left hand in his left pocket, explained to Michael at the station that there seemed to be a lead on the case, a surveillance camera across the streets captured the plate number of a car that was seen around the time of the murder with a blurry image of two men and the picture was undergoing enhancement at the lab, the detective also told Michael he heard about the death of Cannon Johnson Sr.
Michael tried to find out if there was any connection between the two incidences or resemblance of the vehicle used during the drive-by shooting and the photo from the surveillance camera obtained from his neighbourhood, the detective then handed over three more photos to Michael, the car used on the night of the incidence in his house was the same as the one used in killing the old man, this raised an eyebrow. ‘It’s an unregistered car, fake plate number . . . probably bought or brought in for these missions,’ said the detective who pulled out his left hand from the left pocket and scratched his nose then put it back in the pocket again.
Detective Samuel paid keen attention to the expression on Michael’s face while they were talking and asked, ‘Michael are you sure there is nothing you wish to share with me?’
Michael didn’t utter a word but with an odd expression on his face, he picked one photo each from the two different incidences, walked to the wall at the end of the room, leaned his back on the wall then gently slid himself down, sitting on the floor, shaking his head and talking to himself. ‘No, it can’t be, it can’t be,’ he whispered, with his right hand brushing through the hair follicles of his head and holding the pictures with the other ‘but it’s too obvious, you’d be caught and I know you are not that stupid, Cannon. He is . . . not that stupid!’ he muttered.
The detective walked to him and squatted saying, ‘we have already gotten an arrest warrant on Mr Cannon Johnson Jr. and if he is the man behind this, I assure you the law will crush him firmly with the gavel of justice! If you are holding anything back, it’s time to open up buddy.’ Detective Samuel expounded to Michael that so far it’s just suspicion but they would bring Junior to the station for questioning and probably detain him until he gets cleared and if they have nothing on him he would be released free or on bail.
Michael then spelled out to the detective what went down at the office on the last board meeting but said he was not sure Junior would do anything like that or have a hand in it. ‘Let the law decide my friend, let the law decide when we run our investigation,’ said the detective who asked Michael to write another statement that was documented and kept in the case file.
Gillian was at the reception with a policewoman waiting for her father and by the time Michael got there with the detective walking behind him, two policemen walked in escorting Cannon Johnson Jr. into the station, the two men stared at each other. Junior gave a cynical smile at Michael, stopped and dramatically sympathized with him, telling him that the two of them have lost people so dear to them. Michael did not say a word. ‘I think the authorities suspect that I did it, Michael, could you imagine that, kill my own father?’ said Junior as he giggled. ‘Spending eighteen years on the job doesn’t make one an expert! You’ve got this one wrong, brother!’ added Junior to the detective who smiled.
Detective Samuel turned to the two policemen and ordered them to guide Junior into the interrogation room.
‘Well, let us see what the law has got to say . . . brother!’ he said, as Junior walked away guided by the policemen.
Michael and his daughter stepped out of the station, the detective followed them and as soon as Michael and his daughter entered the cab, the detective approached the car window and told Michael not to worry, that he would keep him posted on any progress. Michael thanked him and asked the cabman to drive off, leaving the detective standing with his left hand in his left pocket.
As they pulled by the hotel, before Michael and his daughter made their way into the reception, a man called out his name and they stopped, the man approached them, he was dressed in a black suit with a black hat.
He removed his hat and bowed at Gillian as a courtesy, Gillian moved back standing behind her father. The man stretched his hand at Michael for a handshake. ‘Have we met before?’ asked Michael.
‘Oh, pardon my manners, I go by so many names but you can call me Hibnus!’ said the man, smiling.
‘What do you want?’ Michael asked again.
‘Well, it might interest you to know that I come from a world not far from this one and there is more to whom you always trust than meets the eye, Michael.’ The man replied, putting his hat back on his head as he added, ‘accept my deepest . . . of condolences for your great loss but you can regain all you’ve lost if only you’d look beyond this age my friend, you know what I mean?’
Gillian held her father firmly. ‘Look, Mister, I don’t know who you are or what you want but you’re scaring my little girl and I don’t think you’d like my reaction from here on out. So, if you may!’ Michael exclaimed as he led Gillian away from the man, she smiled and threw a tongue out at the stranger but Michael didn’t notice it. Michael and Gillian walked into the hotel leaving the man outside and the man smiled looking up at the hotel building.
‘Who was that man, Daddy?’ Gillian asked her father. ‘Nobody, darling! I’m here, sweetie, don’t be afraid!’ He replied to her as they entered the lift to their floor.
‘I saw him talk with mommy the other day at the mall . . .’ Gillian added.
‘What?’ Michael asked.
‘Yes, Daddy, that man . . . I saw him talking to mom the other day at the mall, about a week ago or so,’ said Gillian.
Michael was disturbed by what he heard but didn’t want to attack his daughter with questions. ‘Sweetie, what were mommy and the man talking about that day at the mall?’ He asked again.
‘I don’t know, all I heard was mom saying “you’ve failed already!” The man smiled and said “I may fail now but I don’t quit, woman!” to mommy . . . I think,’ replied Gillian.
Michael asked Gillian to go into the room and wait for him as he ran down the stairs. He got out looking for the man but could not find him, he ran down the streets both ways, back and forth but no sign of the stranger.
Michael went back into the hotel and knocked on Paul’s hotel room, Samantha opened the door and welcomed him in with a smile. Paul got out of the bedroom and the two sat down, Michael told him everything that happened and when he was trying to remember the name of the man with the hat, Samantha said ‘Hibnus?’ Michael turned and said, ‘yes, that was his name, do you know him?’
Samantha went and sat down next to Paul quietly and both were looking at Michael as Samantha stuttered trying to say something. ‘Stay away from that man, Michael, he is evil!’ said Paul.
‘You’ve got to tell him the truth, honey,’ said Samantha with a straight-faced stare at Paul.
‘Tell me what?’ asked Michael.
Paul covered his face with his hand in dismay, sighed, then looked at Michael and said, ‘he was sent to get you, that man . . . they er . . . they are after you!’ Michael did not understand any of the things Samantha and Paul were talking about. ‘They . . . are after me?’ asked Michael. ‘Anyway, my daughter also said she saw him talk to my wife about a week ago at the mall,’ he added.
‘Poor Jana, she must have known . . . they must have come to her before approaching you . . . could it be?’ added Paul.
‘Could what be?’ interrupted Michael who got upset with the unclear and sketchy words coming from Paul.
‘They want you on their side, Michael . . .’ said Samantha. ‘Whom you met outside is one of the messengers and takes many forms,’ she added.
Michael got offended with what she said but controlled himself, staring at the couple he asked, ‘it takes many forms? Seriously?’ As he snickered because he felt stupid being addressed like a child so he stood up and walked out of their hotel room, Samantha wanted to follow him but Paul stopped her.
Michael went back to his hotel room, standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom, he touched the stitched wound at the back of his head, he stared into his eyes from the reflection in the mirror for a long time, bent down and washed his face in the wash hand basin then looked back at his reflection in the mirror again. Michael pulled out his wallet from his back pocket and pulled out a picture of him, Jana, and Gillian, he stared at it for a while, sighed and put it back into the wallet and kept the wallet on the basin. Too many thoughts crept through his mind and it was turning dark as he stared into the mirror again, he wiped the tears from his eyes and washed his face again.
Michael switched off the light in the bathroom, walked into the bedroom, and locked the door then lay on the bed where Gillian was, but she was half asleep. He smiled at her, she cuddled and curled herself into his arms. ‘I miss mommy,’ she said.
‘I missed her too, sweetie,’ he answered, staring at the ceiling still infuriated by the reaction from Paul and Samantha. His phone beeped, it was a text message from Paul. ‘There is more to what it seems, sorry about the way we approached you, will explain!’ Read the text.
Michael lay motionless till he was sure Gillian was asleep, he then moved his body away slowly from hers, stood up and gave a call to the detective. The men talked for a while and hung up, Michael then switched on the desktop situated close to the bookshelves in his hotel living room.
After it booted he went online searching through a website showcasing beautiful caskets and prices tagged on them, he scrolled through and clicked on the ‘contact us’ icon on the site’s page he was in. He made a call to Jana’s family, she, too, had lost her dad a long time ago but her mother and three siblings were still alive and Jana’s mother could not talk to him over the phone because she lost her voice and could not talk after hearing of her daughter’s demise days ago so he spoke with her sister.