The construction of the Quartier Generale of the antiterrorism unit is now three months in its construction. Most of the offices are ready including the ones that will serve as Code RED. Beating the initial estimate of 6 months, Chukwuma was ready to deliver the project in four.
This is the biggest project Chukwuma has ever handled. Although he is specialised in the design and construction of highly security-oriented buildings, the other projects he has handled in the past were nothing close to this, maybe with the exception of the 5.6 billion dollars mansion of the Saudi Royal family. The rests were just projects below that amount but not less complex in their function nor less important in their use.
Some of them being the Headquarters of Mossad of Israel and FSB of the Russian Federation to name but a few. In fact, Chukwuma says that why he wasn’t the one that constructed the FBI headquarters was because the Director had a covert relationship with Gima Nakuto. Well, that has been debunked several times, but who cares… Chukwuma believes it and says it to whoever cares to listen.
One thing that is important to note is that for each project Chukwuma carries out, he often makes use of a secret formula that only the owner of the project knows. Also because they are buildings that require the best of security systems, he would always construct halls or rooms that had some unimaginable passwords both for entrance and exit. These passwords can’t be hacked nor reset because they aren’t linked to the internet nor are the words found in dictionaries.
Basically, Chukwuma has a pattern of mixing his experiences together and coming up with a formula that leads to a password. Someone even insinuated that Chukwuma made use of the birthplace of his second wife’s late sister, together with the age of his first wife’s brother, all garnished with the birthday of the Chinese President’s third son. I mean, it’s simply uncrackable, no matter how many times you try. Anyway, he has a secret notebook where he keeps these formulas, completely analogue.
Chika has often visited the construction site to observe the progress of the work there. In fact, it became a routine for Chika to visit the place daily, either after dropping Ebuka at school or during her lunch break. And on most of those occasions, Chukwuma was around to show her around and answer her questions.
With her continual visit, Chukwuma soon began developing some affection towards her and Mbe was monitoring. One of the days, Chika needed to report the progress of the work to her superiors. So, that morning she called and went to Chukwuma’s office to get the latest info on the progress of the site. Unknown to her, Mbe had followed her from home to Chukwuma’s office.
After she dropped Ebuka at school, she noticed that a navy blue BMW car that was parked along her street as she left the house was also parked along the way to Ebuka’s school. She became curious and asked her driver to change the route he normally takes to the office.
Despite this decision, she observed that a minute after arriving at Chukwuma’s office, the same car appeared 100m behind her. She quickly asked the driver to park while she got off. He pretended to get into the office of the architect but followed the next street and walked back. On approaching the position where the BMW waited on the other street, she took out her phone and turned on the video camera to record. But as soon as Mbe saw her, she quickly sped off although Chika was able to capture the plate number of the vehicle.
She went into the architect’s office for the scheduled meeting. When she got back to the office that morning, she asked one of her assistants to check the plate number. The result that came in wasn’t surprising to her – the vehicle belonged to the FBI. This discovery further reinforced her belief that the FBI or some of its components had something to hide.
The fondness for her by Chukwuma increasingly grew. On one of her visits to inspect the site, Chukwuma revealed something to her. It was something that Chukwuma had only discussed with the Director of National Intelligence and wasn’t allowed to discuss it with anyone, including Chuka because her security pass doesn’t allow her to know of such matters.
But the architect was so much in love with this young mother that he was carried away for a minute. He told her that there’s a very important room in an apartment in this building that is currently under furnishing by him. The room will be so special that once you’re inside there, no one will ever know that you’re there. The room itself doesn’t appear on the architectural design of the building, just like some other rooms that are hidden for security purposes seeing that it’ll be housing a unit as sensitive as the antiterrorism unit.
In this special room, what appears on the design is just a wall and on the other side are just various pipes that conduct human excreta to the sewage. Chukwuma added that he and Chika could get in there and do so many things together. He quickly caught himself and asked for pardon. Chika simply giggled and moved on with other questions. After the routine inspection of the place, Chika drove to her office but that secret which the architect divulged kept ringing in her mind.
The week leading to the official opening of the new site, Chika took Ebuka to see the building. Chika has been telling him stories about the new place she’ll be moving into the following week and has promised to take him along when the place is finally opened. The building will be officially opened next week, so Chika took Ebuka to see around the place. She wasn’t aware of the presence of the architect at the place. When they got there, Chukwuma was excited to see her and especially Ebuka, seeing that he had been itching to see him.
During the mini-tour, Chika introduced her little boy to Chukwuma, who in turn introduced his daughter to Chika. Her daughter, Jael is a final year medical student in a neighbouring city and has just returned on holiday to stay with the Dad.
Jael is the only child of the first wife, who died after a prolonged battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma. The second wife left Chukwuma a year after their wedding because she was fascinated with the lifestyle in Moscow and refused to return. When Chukwuma refused to stay there, Clara, the second wife moved out of his house and went to live with a male friend she had met at the construction site in Moscow. Chukwuma will later discover that they were already courting the months before her departure.
After Chukwuma has introduced Jael to Chika, he quickly adds that Chika and Ebuka should come over for dinner at his place tonight or tomorrow. Chika was reluctant to accept but the facial expression of Jael and the continual insistence of Chukwuma made Chika agree. After taking Ebuka around the building, Chika drove off. Chukwuma and his daughter stayed for a little longer before leaving for his office.
Despite the incident where Mbe was almost caught stalking Chika, he has continued to monitor her moves. This time, not because of the private investigation of Chika into the death of Ike, but because he was beginning to notice the developing affection of Chukwuma towards her. And he was very jealous. He couldn’t accept seeing another man have Chika instead of himself. So, during this last inspection of the building before the opening, he came around. Out of jealousy, he had thought of killing the architect but desisted because he didn’t want Chika to suspect him seeing she was already investigating the circumstances surrounding Ike’s death.
After the mini-tour, as Chika drove home with Ebuka, she was a bit disturbed by the presence of Mbe at the site. Mbe had familiarised himself with Chukwuma on a few occasions before now, so his presence at the site wasn’t a source of preoccupation for Chukwuma. But Chika knew him better and suspected that his intentions weren’t pure.
It was evening and Chika was now getting ready to leave for the planned dinner with Chukwuma and his daughter. Ebuka on the other hand couldn’t wait for it to get dark; he was itching to go there earlier had his mother let him. He was just so excited about making a new friend or rather discovering an elder sister he doesn’t have in Jael, Chukwuma’s daughter.
‘Mommy, are you not ready yet? Mr Chukwuma said we should come before it’s dark,’ Ebuka asked Chika.
‘Yes, Nnam, I’m ready. And it’s just 7 pm; we’re not late for the dinner appointment with Mr Chukwuma.’ Chika responds.
‘Hmmm… yes, but it’s good to be on time for appointments Nnem.’ Ebuka added.
Chika was a bit shocked when she heard that from Ebuka. I don’t mean the issue of punctuality, but that name. That’s a name she hasn’t heard for quite some time now; a name that only one person called her. And this is the first time Ebuka is calling her that. Well, he has called her that a few times in the past, but he was imitating Ikem then as a child.
Chika simply smiled and rubbed her hands around the head of Ebuka. But she couldn’t stop thinking about that name because of the memories that come to mind whenever that name enters her ear auricles; it’s refreshing to say the least.
‘Nnam, I’m ready. Are you ready?’ Chika said smiling.
‘Of course Mom; I was ready before you.’ Ebuka wondered while looking at the standing mirror before Chika
‘Ok dear, get your jacket, the black leather one I got for you last week, so can go.’
‘Ok, Mom. Let me get it.’
Chika adjusts her slouchy sweater and applies a couple of perfume sprays. She wasn’t in for so much preparation; after all, this wasn’t dinner with Ikem. She just obliged because of Ebuka and for courtesy as well. So, she just wore a denim skirt, a slouchy sweater and high boots to match.
Chukwuma’s house is a cosy bungalow situated a few kilometres outside the city centre. About 10 minutes drive from Pirro’s lane, the environment is neatly and nicely decorated with ornamental plants giving off their fragrances.
As Chika and Ebuka arrived at the house, Jael was already waiting to open the door for them. The ambience was quite breathtaking, courtesy of Jael; with the lightning and other fixtures, Chika felt so welcome. And how about some piece of jazz music in the background? That was simply heavenly.
At the diner table, they all prayed and went all in a gustare of the delicacies Jael had graciously prepared for the occasion. While they talked about their lives and the new building, Chukwuma asked Jael and Ebuka to excuse them. He wanted to tell Chika something regarding work that he wouldn’t want them to hear. They obliged and went to the living room.
Chukwuma was about to reveal a secret that he’s kept for many months, a secret that no one should know. A secret that would jeopardise his life and that of his daughter. A secret that forms the basis for the title of this story, ROOM 39.
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