ROOM 39| CHAPTER 17
The FBI and the DNI decided to uncover the secret code of Room 39. Chukwuma had refused to release both the entrance and exit codes until the building was completed and handed over to them. According to him, it is a policy he has maintained since his first construction of a building for a security outfit.
In fact, it was well spelt out in the contract he signed with them that no one would ask for the security codes until the day of the handover. Chukwuma had planned to release the entrance code and the combinations for the exit code to Chika and the Directors a night before handing the building over to them.
When the DNI observed that Chika went on with a private investigation despite warnings from her director, she was suspended from the agency until the investigation into the death of Chukwuma is concluded. The Director gently asked her to go for paid therapy leave because she looked mentally drained and unstable. They’d call her back in a couple of months when the entire drama is over.
Although that would deprive Chika access to certain privileges she enjoys, and the possibility of getting vital pieces of information from people around, she thought it was an opportunity to focus her attention on these two fronts wholly. Several times in the past days, the Director had sought ways to keep her occupied with minor cases of acts of terrorism across the globe. Although she loves her work and considers every act of terror important, she felt this wasn’t the time to pin her down with things junior colleagues could handle. So, the suspension came as a relief for her.
Chika has made repeated attempts to see the body of Chukwuma but to no avail. She wanted to examine his wounds and the bullets that were extracted from his body seeing that the reports talked about shooting. With the bullets, she can trace the manufacturer, the type of gun used, and maybe the killer. She also wanted to know if there were any signs of physical altercation before his death, maybe the fingerprint of the murderer might show on Chukwuma’s body.
Seeing the impossibility of gaining access to Chukwuma’s body, Chika decided to speak with her source once more. Maybe the committee has analysed the pieces of evidence found at the building site and understands what happened. This time, however, Chika’s source couldn’t say much because according to him, not much was going on. He told her that Chukwuma had enemies within and outside the FBI, and none of these enemies is interested in knowing the truth. ‘They just want to move on as if nothing happened.’ He said. “The committee has met twice but had nothing much to discuss because someone somewhere wants the case closed and buried forever.”
But there was one piece of info he gave which Chika found extremely important: The FBI and DNI are planning to break into Room 39 and unravel the secret codes. They want to do that as quick as possible because that building is very important to National Security. And the agencies are already on the lookout for qualified people to do that within days.
As he spoke, Chika understood that something fishy was going on; the speed with which things are moving wasn’t normal. Not the speed of the investigation, but the speed with which the FBI and the DNI want to gain access into Room 39 is very suspicious. And her doubts were confirmed when the colleague said to her, ‘‘It appears there’s more to just knowing how to get out of that room; it seems like there’s something that was kept inside the room that they wish to take back.”
After Chika heard those words, she decided to get in there and exit before them. She enquired of when the Room break was to occur and was told that it would be done in the coming days, three days at most from now. Chika hadn’t much time to prepare, but she’s worked with short notice all her career and was never going to back down.
The colleague however warned her, “Ma’am, I sincerely think you should leave this case. Allow them to do what they want and later we’ll dig more. Act as if you aren’t interested in this case until you’re restored back to the office. Then, we’ll do our private investigation and unearth the facts. The atmosphere in the office is tense; there’s suspicion everywhere. Please, stand back and let them do their thing. I have a sensation that these people are willing to kill anyone who stands in their way.” Chika nodded in agreement and left without saying a word.
That night, Chika tells her father Dede of her plans to go inside Room 39 and know what the FBI and whoever it was kept inside that place. In her opinion, whatever item it was held the key to unravelling the mystery surrounding Chukwuma’s death, and maybe that of Ikem.
Chika spent all night recalling the conversation she had with Chukwuma a couple of weeks back at dinner. She recalls the indications and codes that were wrapped in weird stories she now wished she had recorded or paid rapt attention to. After a few hours, she was able to recall the secret code for getting into the room and just a portion of the exit code. She knows that the code changes every thirty seconds.
It was going to be a tortuous experience getting in there and getting locked; that could mean her death because she doesn’t know who will eventually be walking into that Room and what the person’s intentions are. Her desire would be to go in early in the morning at 4 am and exit the room at 5 am with any incriminating item deposited in that Room.
Dede couldn’t sleep that night. He was lost in thoughts about losing his daughter to the cold hands of death, just as he lost his dad (Chika’s grandfather). His mind flashed back to his days in the military and how deadly some enemies could be, especially when those enemies include hired assassins on huge pay from drug lords or even governments of nations.
At some point, Dede came down the stairs into the room where Chika was drawing her plans and plotting her strategies. He simply stood at the edge of the door watching her through the small slit Chika had left to monitor the ambient noise. As Dede observes her, he shakes his head and strokes his forehead and hair at intervals.
“I know you’re behind me. Don’t stay there looking at me; you know you can actually come in, right?” Chika said, looking at the mirror in front of her, which shows the person at the door. Dede calmly comes in and sits close to the table where Chika is plotting her maps for entrance and exit.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’ll be out in an hour or two.” Chika said, pausing for a moment as she looks into Dede’s eyes.
He strokes his hair and says in a deep hoarse voice, “so, what are your plans?”
“To go in and come out before them,” Chika replied.
“I know. But concretely, how do you intend to go in and out seamlessly? Don’t you think there are guards 24 hours in and outside the building?” Dede questioned.
“Well, I don’t have any business with them. From what Chukwuma showed me, Room 39 should be on the third floor. So, I’ll go in through the window of one of the offices on the second or third floor. Find my way to Room 39, get in there, search for whatever item was kept in there and exit the same way I entered.”
“And if things go differently? If you’re discovered?” Dede questioned further.
“I won’t, Dad. I’ve been there several times and seen the posts where the guards stay. They won’t see me at all.” Chika replied, trying to dismiss Dede’s fears.
“And if things go differently? If this expedition doesn’t go as you had thought? Do you have any other plans?” Dede insisted.
“Well, then I’ll be constrained to use other means. I hope I don’t anyway.” Chika answered.
“Fair enough. I would have been shocked if you didn’t have an alternative plan… if you weren’t going in there with guns, knives and explosives.” Dede said.
“Explosives? For what Dad?” Chika said, in surprise.
“For the guards of course. Or for the door to the Room. Or inside the Room. Or for the windows. You never can tell when you’d need what.” Dede said, trying to make sense of his advice to carry explosives.
Chika shakes her head, “Dad, it’s late. It’s 3 am and I’ll be leaving soon. My plan is to get in at 4 am and exit at 5 am max.”
“How about the secret codes for entrance and exit?” Dede asks.
“I have the one for entrance and a bit for the exit, but I’m not so sure. It’s really complicated.” Chika responded.
“I can imagine. That’s why I asked that you take explosives with you. Anyway, whatever happens, think of someone or something Chukwuma loves so much if it becomes difficult. Men often use the names of someone or something they love as secret codes.”
“Women do that too, Dad.” Chika cuts in.
“Yeah, but not like men. Anyway, just remember those he loved while alive. The secret code cannot be far from their names, dates of birth, lovely places they visited, best foods and favourite sports.” Dede added.
“Alright, Dad. You’re right. I remember that his stories that night, though weird, were centred around places and people he loves so much – his daughter and late wife.” Chika responded, carefully omitting that Chukwuma also talked about her so much that night. She thought it wasn’t a piece of information worth sharing with Dede. But she kept it in her mind.
Just as Chika was concluding her discussion with her dad, she got a call from an unknown line. She felt it could be her colleague in the committee that is calling to give her a vital piece of information at that time. When she answered, the news she heard was saddening. Unfortunately, her colleague that worked with the committee was killed that night. Chika was shattered by the news; she couldn’t help but cry profusely. Her mind ran back to the losses she’s experienced recently – the death of Ikem, the murder of Chukwuma and now this.
After a few minutes of crying, Dede advised her to put off her plans towards going into the building tonight, but Chika wouldn’t listen. She vehemently refused to back down on her plans. She said that it’s better to go tonight than give the enemies another day to strategize and beef up the security in the building. She doesn’t know if her colleague confessed to telling her about some vital things before, he was killed. But that’s immaterial now. She wasn’t backing down, not this time, and not anymore.
So, she took more ammunition than she earlier planned to take. Her initial plans to do things calmly at the building had evaporated with that news; she was ready for whatever or whoever posed a threat to her mission. Her determination was reinvigorated for the sake of those who had died.
It was as if suddenly she entered combat mode; the mode she was in when she travelled to Zimri to capture Selence. The mode she is in whenever she goes to enemy lands to hunt down terrorists and warlords. The emotion of fear was gone. Courage to do the impossible was found. Mission and only mission was in her mind. Chika was ready to get in there and unearth the truth, for the sake of Ikem. For the sake of Chukwuma. And for the sake of her dead colleague.
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Read Chapter 18 now.