Room 39| Chapter 21
Ejike was about to tell Ola that those tricks are no problems at all when she told him that the men vowed never to allow her to see the mom if she doesn’t convince him to go on this expedition. Ejike was broken, he had thought about going to the police and giving all the details of Mbe and what he was trying to do. He also wanted to call some government officials he knows to see how Mbe could be arrested for staging this alleged murder and theft. But the life of Ola’s Mom is on the line and Ola risks going to jail because no one can tell how the court case would go.
‘My dear, please, what did they ask you to do? What items are they looking for and where are they?’ Ola asks Ejike, ignorant of the demands Mbe had made a couple of days ago, to Ejike.
Ejike narrates the story of how two men came to his office two days ago under the guise of an official assignment from the government. The men claimed to be officials of the FBI and wanted him to get into a secret room at the new Antiterrorism Unit’s building and extract some materials for them. But he declined because of his engagements and because those men don’t sound genuine in their words and attitude. ‘There’s something fishy about their story and behaviour, so, I just wasn’t interested in whatever it was, legal or illegal’ Ejike says.
After some moment of discussion, weighing the pros and cons, with Ola, Ejike decided that he would do it for the sake of Ola. He asked Olamma to call the surgeon to proceed with the treatment of her mother. Ejike will sort out the hospital bill.
Olamma also had to cancel her trip home because she was afraid that Mbe and his cohorts could trail her down to her hometown; she doesn’t want to put her mother’s life at risk. She also decided to go with Ejike into whatever secret room the men wanted him to go into. She believes that she is safer with him than going back to stay in her apartment all alone.
Ejike and Olamma decided to play along with Mbe, but this time, they wanted to document their meetings as proof for whatever may come up tomorrow. Ejike calls his secretary and asks her to call Mbe for a meeting that afternoon at the university playground. He wanted to meet in the open where Mbe and his colleague won’t be able to do anything funny.
When Mbe received the call from Ejike’s secretary, he was happy that Ola was finally able to bend Ejike. He quickly called the FBI office, informing them that he had found someone capable that would go into Room 39 by tomorrow or next. He wanted to stop any moves by the agency to recruit someone else for this delicate job.
That afternoon, armed with their minute audio-visual recording devices, Ejike and Olamma waited for Mbe at the park. Mbe arrived alone this time. When Mbe enquired why Ejike and Olamma were together, Olamma told him that she was going to do whatever it takes to save her mom; that she wants to take part in the expedition. Mbe tried to dissuade her, but she insisted.
Mbe agrees and he tells them that the official assignment is to get into the Room and get out in a couple of days. Getting into the secret room won’t be much of a problem because the FBI has been able to unravel the entrance code. But getting out is the major issue because the late architect, Chukwuma didn’t reveal the exit code before his death. The agency needs someone with Ejike’s ability to decipher the code.
Then, there was an unofficial assignment too. There are some precious items inside that room which they must find and get for him when coming out. The items include wraps of confiscated drugs and important reserved documents all hidden in a briefcase inside the room. Those items must not be tampered with and should for no reason be handed over to the FBI except to himself Mbe. Mbe informed them that many lives are at stake because of the items in that briefcase. He has also scheduled a meeting at the FBI office with the Director; they should simply show up at the scheduled time, and with their credentials, they’d easily pass the selection process.
During the entire discussion, Ejike deliberately avoided bringing up what transpired that morning between Ola and Mbe. He just wanted Mbe to give out as many details regarding the expedition as possible.
When Mbe was done, Ejike had only one question, ‘did you have to go that far to get my attention?’ To which Mbe responded, ‘when the lives of the members of your family are on the line, a man does whatever it takes to save them. Do whatever you have to do, and your own family members will live.’ That was all that Ejike needed, a recorded confirmation that Mbe orchestrated the whole drama that took place in Ola’s apartment that morning.
Prior to this time, Ejike has been reading the online publications by Kean, the journalist, which Chukwuma was passing to him via emails. He was just doing that as a way of exercising his intellectual ability to solve puzzles, not because he needed the money that Chukwuma had promised. So far, he thinks that he has solved all the puzzles published by Kean correctly. So, he had a few hypotheses as to what the exit code could be. Chukwuma didn’t release all the combinations of the exit code from Room 39 before his murder. Ejike wasn’t aware of this, neither was Ola.
Chika has been trailing Mbe since the day she observed that Mbe was stalking her. She had employed a female private investigator to monitor him. When Chukwuma was killed, Chika’s suspicion towards Mbe increased. There were a few reasons why Mbe could be responsible, the major one being jealousy.
One day, the private investigator called to tell Chika that Mbe was around the university arena in search of a university lecturer named Ejike. When Chika checked, she discovered that Ejike is a mathematician who has worked with the government a few times on academic issues. She didn’t quite connect the dots immediately.
But when she remembered that her colleague in the investigation committee said that the FBI was searching for someone or some people to break into Room 39, she quickly connected the dots; Mbe was searching for his man to get in there. So, she figured out that there must be more to this story; something more that could reveal the reason behind the brutal assassination of Chukwuma.
So, during the meeting of Mbe with Ejike and Olamma, Chika came around the university disguised as a female student. She had some shades and a hoodie on, so Mbe won’t know she was the one. She sat down a few metres away from them, and from there she took pictures of the meeting. A few times, she would face her video camera towards them and when Ola looked in her direction, she’d bend the camera, pretending to fix the lens. When she was about to leave, Ola observed her hoodie and boots and took note of them.
The following day, the DNI and FBI directors invited five people, including Ejike and Ola to the FBI headquarters for a discussion on their assignment before sending them there. The DNI director wanted to tell them how important and confidential their assignment is, including the risks involved.
During the discussion, he explained to them that there’s a high risk that they’d never get out of the Room…alive. He told them that Room 39 is an apartment that is built like a labyrinth. It was intended to be a place that no hacker can infiltrate and no weapon, no matter how sophisticated can penetrate, except for an atomic bomb.
If they got trapped in there, the only other alternative would be to simulate an earthquake of high magnitude, destroy all the security protocols and destroy the Room. It’s a security system that the FBI and DNI paid heavily for, and they don’t intend to destroy it. This is beside the fact that destroying Room 39 would mean the death of any person inside. Therefore, all of them that are going in there must reflect on these risks and know that it is a mission that has no options, they either exit the Room alive in three days or exit the Room.
At the end of the discussion, two people decided to quit because the compensation was not worth it. Ejike and Ola looked at each other the entire time the Directors were explaining the risks involved. But each time they wanted to give up the expedition, they remembered what the alternative was – constant fear for their lives and those of their family members. So, they decided to stay put, if they perish in the rubbles of the earthquake, so be it.
The other person that stayed put was Kachi. Yes, the middle-aged professor of Chemical engineering who synthesised the drugs that the Collingahs stole from his laboratory. All the while he seemed so calm about the expedition, asking questions as one who is very determined to get in there and who is partially sure of leaving the Room alive. While the others trembled for their lives, he was busy asking questions about the type of materials used in constructing the building, the doors of Room 39, the planimetry of the apartment and several other questions that were useful but which no one was asking.
The Directors were impressed about his attitude; their hope of finally unlocking the secret code seems founded and it was founded solely on Mr Kachi, a world-renowned chemistry professor. Although his discipline seemed far away from codes and numbers and security, you never can tell what chemical formulas could do, especially in the hands of an intellectual like Mr Kachi.
The only time everyone, including the directors, cringed, was when he asked questions regarding CODE RED, a safe box inside Room 39 that is meant to be top-secret and unbreakable. But he quickly retraced his steps and told everyone that he wasn’t interested in it. He just wanted out of curiosity to know if they kept something there, they’d want him to get out for them in case there was an earthquake; at least that item would be saved even if all of them died. Everyone laughs but he knows where he is going.
While everyone’s objective was to decipher the exit code, Kachi had a two-fold objective or rather three, but two inside the Room – firstly, to lay his hands on the drugs he synthesised, secondly, unravel the code and thirdly, to make the Collingahs pay for what they did to him.
Kachi’s interest in the puzzle since learning from the newspaper that the Collingahs were in search of their drugs has increased. Daily, on his way to school, he’d purchase the local newspaper where the puzzles were published and go ahead to solve them. He was convinced that the new Antiterrorism building was in some way linked to the drug that the Collingahs were searching for.
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Continue to read: Chapter 22