THE BLAST - EPISODE 3

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Poster source:  moofyme.com Six months later: Physiotherapy unit, University College Hospita...


Poster source: moofyme.com


Six months later: Physiotherapy unit, University College Hospital, Euston Road, London
“I am really impressed with your progress Chinyere,” said Brianna, her physiotherapist. “You have gone from almost completely immobile to fully mobile and active. Your will to live is an example for all to follow. Good job,” she effusively praised Chinyere who had stuck to her recovery exercise regimen religiously since being discharged from hospital. “Thanks Brianna. I couldn’t have done it without you.” “No, it is all thanks to you.” They were standing by the gym entrance, having completed their exercise for the evening. “So, see you by next week. The way you are going, you have only a few more sessions before you stop seeing my face.” 

“I will always drop by to say hi. You have really given me a lot of inspiration Brianna.” “I am flattered.” “That’s the truth.” “Thanks Chinyere. I would love to see you any time. By the way how is Gabriel doing?” “It has been a much rougher journey for him. He is in Nigeria now, but he should be in London in less than a week for his next round of surgeries. There is so much to fix all over his body, so we have no idea how long it is going to take before he is in a decent shape.” “That must be very hard. Send my regards to him please.” “I will.” They hugged, and Brianna returned to the gym while Chinyere headed for the bus stop. She clutched her bag and walked quickly to the bus stop. She was only a stone’s throw from King’s Cross St. Pancras, a place that held scary and sad memories for her. She had not been back to the station since the attack. 

“There she goes.” “Are you sure it is her?” “I am positive. I have watched her for weeks now. That is the girl they brought into our office to help the sketch artist generate a drawing of Abdul. I cannot be seen here, you know, so I have to run now. The rest of the job lies with you. She must die. Remember, she must not live because if she does, she will point fingers at Abdul in court and Abdul might in turn point fingers at us all. Get the job done with your boys; quietly and neatly.” “We know how to go about our job Mahmud.” “Okay Sharaf. I am off now.”  Mahmud headed briskly in the opposite direction towards Baker Street. Sharaf walked quickly towards the bust stop. He stood a short distance away from Chinyere. Her bus arrived, pulling up in front of British Library. In typical British fashion everyone on ground waited for passengers to alight before they hopped onto the bus. Chinyere heaved a sigh of relief on getting on the bus. The winter cold was biting bitterly outside while the bus was well heated. She climbed the stairs to the upper deck and tucked into an empty seat by the window. She took out a novel and sank herself into it. She alighted at Shepherd’s Bush bus stop and walked quickly towards her building. She and Gabriel had taken a year off school to recover from the injuries they sustained in the bomb blast. As a result, she had moved out of the university hall of residence to an apartment complex in Shepherd’s Bush.

I think I saw this guy on Euston Road, she thought as she got close to her apartment building. The way he was following her caught her attention. She slowed down in an attempt to determine how he was going to react. In order not to spook her, Sharaf casually crossed over to the other side of the road. There were too many passers-by, and besides, his boys were running a few minutes late. He wanted to make sure the job was carried out without any inhibitions. He puffed out a cascading spurt of smoke as he crossed the road. He took another sip of his cigarette and looked at Chinyere from the corner of his eye. Chinyere deliberately passed her building and walked into a shop in the adjoining building. She ambled around the shop while looking out for her stalker. 

She spent a nearly ten minutes in the shop, making sure that she had not been following by the shadowy figure in the street. Satisfied that she had lost him, she carefully stepped outside and scanned the street for a moment before heading back towards her building. When she got to her building, she slowed down and looked around again. She did not notice anything out of the ordinary, so she pushed the heavy door open and walked in. She ran up to the first floor, opened her apartment quickly, ran in and locked the door securely behind herself. She only turned on the table lights and then went to the window and peered into the street. To her shock, he was standing downstairs letting out a jet of thick smoke out of his mouth and nostrils. He was talking hurriedly to another young man. They appeared to be pointing in the direction of her apartment. She turned off all the lights, and continued watching them. Then, she took out her phone and dialed Chief Constable Daniel Briggs. He was her contact officer at Scotland Yard.

Months ago she had told the police that she remembered what the young man who might have set off the bomb at King’s Cross looked like. On regaining her memory, she remembered the man who had suspiciously left a bag at the station and walked away, just before the blast went off. The suspect, Abdazari Eiman had been careful to obscure his face with a hood before heading up the flights of the station where CCTV cameras would have revealed his face. But that was not before Chinyere had caught sight of him. With her help, a composite sketch of the Abdazari was drawn, which later led to his arrest in Birmingham. “In case you have any problems or should anything further come up, do not hesitate to call me, the Chief Constable had encouraged Chinyere throughout the investigation. With the matter in court, he called often to check on Chinyere who was due in court in less than two weeks to give her testimony against the Abdazari. 

“Sir, I think my life is in danger,” she said in a low tone. She could barely control her breathing. Her chest was pounding non-stop. “What do you mean Miss Okonkwo?” Chief Constable Briggs asked curiously. “I was followed home from the hospital tonight. I am certain of that. As I am talking to you, there are two men standing in front of my apartment building pointing at my apartment. There are three of them now. No, there are four…five of them now.” “Miss Okonwko, stay on the phone. I am sending a SWAT team to your apartment immediately. Is your door locked?” “Yes, but if they want to break in, my door can only offer little resistance to them, from what I can see.” She pushed the curtain further to her right, and that was when she realized there were seven of them. There is no way I am going to escape this unscathed, she thought frightfully. “Sir, I am getting out of here. There are many of them. I think they are coming towards into the building now.” Her hands shook as she spoke.

She turned off her phone to keep it from ringing and ran into her bedroom. In less than a minute, she heard a loud bang at her door. Her heart was beating as loud as the bang that she feared her assailants would hear it. Her hands were sweating profusely despite the fact that it was minus 10 degrees Celsius in London. Waves upon waves of sweat sped right across her forehead. Bang!!! She heard her door break open. Like jet fighters, they sped into her apartment. They had kicked their way in. They flipped the lights on and shut the door behind them. She could hear them ransacking hr apartment riotously. Doors opened and slammed shot in quick succession. They turned the apartment inside out but there was no sign of her. “Did we hit the wrong apartment?” A voice asked anxiously. “I swear I saw shades of light come on in this apartment as soon as she climbed upstairs. Sharaf answered. Let’s leave this place now,” another voice suggested. “But she would know that we are after her. We have to finish this off,” Sharaf insisted. A heavy drop of sweat journeyed hastily from Chinyere’s forehead to her chin before taking a dangerous dive downwards. As soon as the sweat hit the inside of the ceiling, her heart sank into her mouth. She was sure they had heard it. Some weeks ago she had found a loose ceiling in her bedroom while cleaning. Instinctively, she had climbed on top her cupboard after frantically kicking her shoes off, and then shifting it aside to into the tiny space between the roof and the ceiling.

“Wait!” Sharaf shouted. One of his colleagues stationed in the hallway peeped in and asked, “Why is a simple job like this taking this long?” “Wait Mustafa!” Sharaf yelled at him. He was sure he heard something but he couldn’t tell where it came from. “Did you check the storage room well?” He asked. “Yes, I did.” Then, they heard police sirens from a distance. “They might be coming here, you know.” “Police sirens are an everyday event in London, man. Stop panicking like a chicken” Sharaf dismissed his colleagues warning. He went to the small storage room and made sure nothing was left unturned. “Sharaf, we think the police are here,” one of his men shouted from the hallway. Quickly, they descended the hallway. 

As soon as they opened the door downstairs, gun shots rang out. Chinyere nearly fell from her tiny hiding spot. The shots were loud. She could not tell who was shooting who. She held tight, latching onto wooden beams with shaky hands. Then, she heard shouts and groans, which were quickly followed by pounding footsteps running back upstairs. There were more gunshots. The normally quiet neighborhood was thrown into fear, shock and chaos for a few minutes, which seemed like eternity. Then, she heard footsteps in her apartment. She remained silent. Her palms were sweat-covered, and her chest was rumbling like a fierce storm. “I hope to God she is not hurt,” a voice said. It was Chief Constable Briggs. “I am up here,” she yelled. He heaved a sigh of relief. “I had feared the worst. We came as fast as we could.” “I snuck in here and thankfully, they did not find me.” They helped her down and took her to a secure house with a tight security.

******************************************************************************

Court House: Westminster Abbey, London
“Miss Okonkwo, do you see the person who left a bag containing the bomb that exploded at King’s Cross St. Pancras Station on July 7 2005 in this courtroom?” The lawyer for the Crown asked. “Yes.” “Please could you point at him for clarity?” Chinyere raised her face and looked in Abdazari’s direction for the first time. He looked up too. His face was expressionless, completely devoid of emotion. She recalled the moment when he had dropped the bag, just a short distance from where she had been standing with Gabriel. Rage rushed through her as she recalled her months of therapy. She thought of the fact that he had to take a year off school to recover from the injuries. She thought of Gabriel, who was still far away from recovery. Earlier that morning she had been with Gabriel. His last two surgeries went well, but he was feeling woozy after all the medication he had to take. The burns he had sustained were deep, leaving gulfs on her face, legs, back, and arms. 

They were staying together in a hidden, quiet house in Surrey with expansive security. He had managed to open his eyes and look at Chinyere who was running around the house in a frenzy making breakfast before leaving for court. “Are you sure you still want to do this Chiichii,” he had asked. “Of course, I want to. I am not going to be frightened into recoiling from my promise. I owe this to myself; to us for what has been taken away from us, most of which we may never recover. I am a little apprehensive, but I am going through with this even at gun point.” He managed a weak smile in recognition of her courage. “I just wanted to make sure you were clear about this. If you feel you are doing this for me at any point, please stop. Do it because you want to go to court and testify against what you are morally and rationally convinced is reprehensible.” “That is my ultimate motivation, but I can’t help but look at you, completely defaced and shattered into…” She paused to gather her emotions and fight back tears.

“You are the first man I have ever fallen in love with, and I have always believed that love is not just about aesthetics – it goes beyond how we look, which is the reason I am still in love with you. I know your heart; the heart that led you through that raging inferno to save me, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been. When I look at you, my heart bleeds for what you have been through since that terrible day. You try to hide your pains. You don’t ever complain, but I can see you pains Gaby. I see the bruises that mercilessly stomp on your face callously, and I wonder how much pain and agony you are carrying on the inside. I am testifying in court today not just because I know it is the right thing to do, but because I know you deserve to be heard. You cannot stand in court and testify because of your health, but I am going to testify so that your story and mine will not become statistics. We are people with names, aspirations, hopes, desires and dreams, and to have those cut short hurts. People should hear our story, so I am going to testify for that, among other reasons.” Gabriel cracked another feeble smile. Behind his smile was a deep slow-moving abyss of pain. He wanted to get up and hug her…kiss her and tell her how much her loved her, but his legs were still too patched up, so he remained in bed. Besides, most of his face was tucked away behind heavy band aids after the surgery. “I am sure you are doing the right thing Chiichii.” “I know I am sweetheart,” she replied and went back to her early morning chores.

As she stared at Abdazari, her fear melted away. She held her shoulder up and pointed straight at him. “He was he one that left the bag that caused the explosion.” “Thank you Miss Okonwko, the lawyer said. Abdazari’s lawyer tried all the tactics in the book in an attempt to shoot holes into Chinyere’s testimony, but she maintained her ground fearlessly. All long, Abdazari stared at her with a horrific smirk on his face.  When court adjourned for the day, a heavy police security shepherded Chinyere out of the courtroom through a back door. Their friends from university, Ayo, Okechukwu, Zainab, Ikenga and Ayeni sat in the courtroom, proud of Chinyere’s resilient and brave performance in the witness box. They had not been able to talk to her nor Gabriel since the attempt on her life, to avoid any security breaches that might give away their location. Chinyere had seen them earlier in the courtroom, and she smiled at them, and they smiled back. 

Despite efforts to keep the press away, there was a deluge of news reporters in the back exit waiting for Chinyere, the star witness. The police did all they could to keep them at bay as they rushed her to the waiting vehicle. The press kept pushing closer, with photographers jostling to get a clear shot of her. “Stay back!” The policemen yelled at the press. “You are not allowed this close,” they shouted at a persistent photographer who was forcefully pressing closer. Abruptly, he dropped his camera and lunged towards the car. A policeman went after him and tackled him down. The man who had disguised as a press photographer was only about three feet away from the car. Chinyere was on the other side of the vehicle surrounded by policemen, one of whom was opening the door for her. The assailant went to ground, yanked his suit open and pulled a plug that was tucked underneath his suit. The policeman saw it late. Before he could react, a massive explosion erupted, Kaboom!!! Bodies went sprawling on the floor while objects took to the air with tornado-like force.
STORY CONTINUES…

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: THE BLAST - EPISODE 3
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