ROOM 39| CHAPTER 26
When Jane was done narrating the story of what happened, Chika was heartbroken for her sake. As Jane spoke, tears were slowly gathering in her eyes, and when Jane mentioned the fatal shooting of Chukwuma, Chika couldn’t hold herself anymore. When they were done crying for the death of Chukwuma, Chika told Jane about the death of her husband, Ikem; how he supposedly drowned after his driver fell asleep on the bridge along Quib’s Avenue and crashed their vehicle into a river. She expresses scepticism about that narrative as well as anger over the poor investigation conducted by the FBI so far. She tells Jane that her resolve for some time now has been to resolve this puzzle of what happened to Ike and who was responsible.
Chika’s initial resolve to find out who killed Chukwuma was strengthened after Jane’s story, but this time, with or without any link to Ike’s case. She was ready to get Jane out of that building as quickly as possible. So, the next thing is to find the exit code. She tells Jane that they won’t be using the main entrance on the first floor but will leave the Room via the third floor, which is meant to be her office.
After her sincere confession, Jane decided to be more transparent and tell her everything about CODE RED – its location and all the security details involved. Chika was very grateful for that added element of transparency and assured her that she’d do everything in her powers to bring the people that killed her father to book. When they both opened CODE RED, what they saw was exactly what Mbe and Chukwuma were talking about, which Jane eavesdropped on. It was a briefcase filled with drugs and documents. They both agree to keep the items back and focus on unravelling the exit code. Once that is obtained, they’d take the items with them while trying to find the correct combination of the code for the door.
The first thing to do is to discover the exact positions of the Opanteclaus of the nine doors. Chika already saw one in her office, through which she came in, so, she has an idea what they could look like. But identifying the nine of them won’t be an easy task, no not in a place like Room 39.
It was now 8am, and Chika was still inside the Room with Jane. The earlier plan of getting out of the Room in an hour has vanished into thin air, just as Dede had said. They’ve spent over an hour mapping out the positions of the doors. Fortunately, they found five doors using the exact points the Opanteclaus was placed on. They marked the places and began trying the combination of the codes that they had.
Chika had come up with a security code based on the discussions she had with Chukwuma, and Jane tried to recall as much as she could from the few seconds, she saw Chukwuma typing the code. They kept trying the various combinations, but none was working. As the minutes turned into hours, Chika knew that it wouldn’t be long until the people that the FBI was about to send into the Room arrived. So, there was a need for a plan, a strategy. She is not alone this time, so she needs to protect herself and Jane. And most importantly, their stories need to match.
Chika’s story is very easy to tell: She is the director of the Antiterrorism Unit, and this is her building where the murder took place. She came in to unravel what happened and even contributed to the FBI’s search for experts to get involved. That’s a credible story. A simple search of her name in any search engine would prove that what she said is true.
‘How did she get the entrance code?’ Simple, she is the DNI officer who has supervised the construction of the building, so it wasn’t difficult for her.
‘Then, how come she doesn’t know the exit code?’ Well, Chukwuma refused to divulge it to anyone until the official opening day; it’s even in the contract the agency signed with him.
‘When did she get in?’ This morning; just a little over an hour ago. ‘I walked in through the main entrance just like everyone else.’ Chika would respond.
Essentially, all the possible questions had ready-made credible answers to them. The answers weren’t going to be outright lies, else she’d be caught, but they weren’t going to be completely true, else her purpose of getting into the room would be defeated.
Jane’s story was a little complicated to formulate. If she said that her father is the late Chukwuma, they would ask her so many detailed questions that the answers would be so many that she could end up revealing everything that Chika was trying to keep hidden. But how does she make up a credible story that will stand for the duration of their stay in the Room?
Chika has an idea. ‘How about you tell them that you’re my office assistant. I brought you in to help me while waiting for them?’ Chika suggested.
‘And if they asked further questions like my name, where I stay, what I studied, my parents etc?’ Jane quizzed.
‘Well, you can tell them your true name. The rest of the information isn’t necessary. You are here to assist a superior, so they should refer all their questions to me. And quite frankly, we don’t have a whole week to spend here. It’s just a day or two and we’re out. Who has the time for long discussions and details?’ Chika replied.
Jane agrees and memorises the answers. They’ve both gotten their stories and she was fine with the cooked-up story about being an assistant. Moreover, she wasn’t ready to start telling the story of her life again to anyone. She was exhausted and just wanted to leave this ‘cursed Room’ and go see her dad’s corpse before he’s buried. Then go home to mourn for him.
The next thing to keep secret is the presence and location of CODE RED. The new entrants shouldn’t know anything about its existence. And if they already knew, as Chika imagined, no one should tell them where it is located. ‘If they discover it by themselves, then we’ll let me attempt to force it open on their own, which they can’t break for obvious reasons.’ Chika added.
‘Then, the last thing to maintain secret is the door that leads to the third floor. That would be the escape route, not the first-floor entrance because there will be men of the FBI, DNI and Police on standby once they exit from there. And any corrupt officials will be trailing as well to harm us.’ Chika concluded. They all agreed and continued their work.
Getting into Room 39 for the new entrants, Kachi, Ejike and Ola wasn’t much of a hassle. With the help of the DNI and FBI officials, it didn’t take a while to unravel the entrance code. At 10am the main entrance on the first floor slid open and Room 39 welcomed her new explorers that will try to unlock her exit code, and she was ready to show her magnificence to them. She was ready to make them respect her and treat her with the admiration she deserves.
As soon as Chika and Jane perceived the door slide open, they quickly hid in the kitchen for fear of being seen by the officers that led the new entrants into the Room. Mbe was among the officers that accompanied them to the new building, and before they entered, in a low voice he reminded Ola of their agreement. Then, in a loud voice, wished everyone well, hoping to see them again in three days or less. ‘I wish everyone luck. For the good of everyone.’ he said.
Talking about the agreement between Mbe and Ola, there was something that Ola has continually omitted from the encounter she had with Mbe – the promise of a huge sum of money in exchange for the drugs and documents. She has kept this promise secret from Ejike even though Ejike has already promised to take care of the hospital bill of the mom’s treatment. Maybe Ola didn’t believe Ejike would do it, or she wanted to still take care of the payment by herself or for some other reasons best known to her. But this secret will jeopardise the entire expedition because the promise of a huge sum of money comes at a huge price.
After the meeting with the directors at the FBI headquarters, Mbe called Ola that evening to inform her that she will be taking a special device with her into the room. That device is a sophisticated mini transmitter with a microphone that is used for special operations of the FBI. It can transmit from hundreds of kilometres and rarely gets disturbed by other frequencies. Mbe wasn’t particularly sure if it’d work in Room 39, but it’s better to try than allow them to be in there without monitoring what’s going on inside.
As they got into the building, they were greeted with the usual thing everyone that enters Room 39 is greeted with – the impeccable design and attention to detail in every angle. Ejike had spent the last two days studying about the entire construction and preparing for a quick exit. With the help of the FBI and DNI, he was able to lay his hands on some of the materials Chukwuma had designed regarding the Room. So, he was aware of certain things that could be found in the Room. However, there is a big difference between seeing the design on paper and finding oneself in the physical apartment. The architectural and artistic ingenuity of Chukwuma was evident and admired greatly, albeit post-mortem by Ejike.
When Chika and Jane observed that the entrance door was shut, they pretended to be so involved with breaking the exit code. They don’t want the new entrants to find them hiding, for that will generate more questions than they may be able to answer. But if they find them working on something in the sitting room, it’ll be easy to tell them the story they had cooked up before they even ask.
Then, once Chika heard them chatter about the design and security installations as they walked towards the sitting room, she quickly came out to greet them and introduce herself. Jane also came along and introduced herself as Chika’s assistant. When they saw Chika and Jane inside the building, they were surprised. ‘Who are they and why are they here?’ were the questions running through the minds of Kachi, Ejike and Ola.
Chika understood their surprise and from their faces could tell they were troubled by the presence of strangers in the room. So, she welcomed them into the Room and told them that they (herself and Jane) came in earlier this morning to begin some preliminary work in the Room before their arrival. She told them that they have been able to map out about 5 different exits in the room.
While she talked, they were still suspicious of her. So, Chika went further in her transparency to tell them who she was and what she does professionally. That she is the landlord of the Room and indeed the entire building being the director of the antiterrorism unit. And that a simple check using the online engines will reveal her identity. Ola quickly googled it while she talked and confirmed that it was so. After introducing herself and Jane as her assistant, she asks them to introduce themselves.
Ejike was the first to introduce himself among the new entrants. His principle has always been, ‘when you’re about to tell lies, be as close to the truth as possible, so you’d sound believable, and no one would think you’re lying. And you can recall the lies any time.’ So, you have figured out that Ejike told them everything about himself and who contacted him to be there. Of course, he carefully omitted the story of how their recruiters tried framing Ola up because that could reveal that their main aim is to lay their hands on the stolen drugs and documents. And neither himself nor Ola wanted anyone to know that objective.
When he mentioned that he was recruited by Mbe, Kachi took note. Kachi quickly figured out that Ejike must be there for the drugs as well. Chika already knew Ejike, so no surprises.
Ola on her part didn’t say much about herself, other than she is an architect and got interested in the expedition because Ejike contacted her that he needed someone with the knowledge of architectural engineering. ‘Keep it brief and wait for questions if anyone is curious to know more,’ is Ola’s principle of telling lies. Kachi perceived that she was hiding some details but didn’t want to ask further. Chika already knew Ola as well, so no surprises.
Kachi’s lies were the most stupid of all. He hadn’t prepared any lies to tell. In fact, Kachi wasn’t prepared for any close human interactions besides the exchange of greetings and maybe names. So, when it was his turn, he was swept off his feet and completely began talking about disjointed things.
Kachi told them that he had visited the building on a minitour with some of his students a few weeks ago. He read about this massive building in the city and thought it would be nice to exemplify some of the things he was teaching his students by bringing them to the field. ‘Of a security building?’ everyone asked. ‘Yes, yes. You know chemical reactions are everywhere and I’m a chemical engineer too, so construction engineering, chemical engineering, just engineering and buildings and security codes and all. It’s my passion. My childhood passion is to unravel the mysteries of buildings with security codes hidden in Rooms and halls and kitchens.’ He said smiling.
The stories sounded insane, and the rest of the group never believed them. And when he was asked why he brought in some chemicals, he said, ‘well, chemicals are needed to discover the reactions of the hands with the screen walls. And if someone has touched the screen, I could figure out the fingerprints by merely blowing on the screen and adding a bit of nitrogen.’ he replied. ‘Nitrogen?’ Everyone chorused. ‘Yeah, nitro… not really nitro… I meant hydro… hydrogen and Oxygen equal to water. So, when I add water to the screen, it purifies it, makes it clean and we can get the code and leave.’
The rest thought he was blabbing and just prayed he doesn’t cause an accident that would kill everyone in the Room. Chika on the other hand took note of him. He is the only one that Chika hadn’t met before now, but she was sure he had a secret agenda just like everyone else.
It’s about to get intense in this Room. I can’t capture what is about to happen in words.
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