‘There are three rooms in Aso Rock that only the President and a handful of people know about. The first room is a surgery. In there they keep gallons of the President’s blood type and multiple viable organs that match him. Should he ever be shot by an assassin, and should the bullet pierce his heart, he would get a new one and survive so long as they get him to that first room on time.
‘The second room is a vault. It contains our national secrets. Secrets that have been kept since colonial times. Names of coup plotters whose coups were unsuccessful and undisclosed. Locations of oil deposits discovered but not yet declared. Details of foreign spy satellites our government has interests in. Secrets gathered by those satellites. The name of the person who killed Dele Giwa. All these things are kept in that room.
‘The third room is also a vault. It holds our national treasures. Sentimental things like the first gallon of crude drilled from the Delta. A comb with hair from Herbert Macaulay’s mustache still in it. The stool Queen Elizabeth sat on when she visited Enugu in 1956. It mostly contains historic stuff, but the outgoing President has been using it to store his loot.
‘The reason no-one has ever found any evidence of money he’s stolen is because he keeps it all in that room. Hundreds of millions of dollars. In hundred dollar bills. You ask me what I want in return for helping you win the presidency? I will tell you now. I want to be allowed into the third room. And whatever I can carry in my hands, I want to be allowed to keep.’
As if to tame them, Efosa put his hands into the pockets of his blue sports jacket. He had illustrated every sentence he spoke with swipes and strokes at an invisible piano in the air. He was the only one in the President’s office wearing western clothes: the jacket with the usual three pens in its breast pocket – one blue, one black, and one red, a white shirt underneath the jacket, tucked into a pair of blue jeans so snugly fitted around his waist he didn’t have need for a belt. He had swapped his black Nike trainers for a pair of black loafers, but the causal look he preached to the young volunteers all through the campaign months still clung to him in his attempt to dress up for this first meeting with the Commander in Chief. He was also the only person standing.
The General had not moved in his chair. His elbows were on the armrests, his fingers were clasped over the knee of his right leg which was crossed over his left leg. The floating leg hung perfectly in place, rigid like his unsmiling face. His black Kaftan didn’t have a crease in it and his red hat sat tight on his head like the red beret it had replaced. He still looked like the General who with a handful of majors overthrew what some still claim was Nigeria’s most corrupt regime. The fight against corruption had been his calling card ever since, his slogan that he dusted up through three failed Presidential campaigns. The voters just didn’t seem able to see a democrat in a former dictator. Till now.
The General bowed his head to remove his hat. Those who knew him knew this meant he was done with discussions, done with a topic, or done with a person. But it could also mean he was done being the General and he had switched to his witty other self that only a few knew existed. But it was hard to tell who would look up when he raised his head from putting his hat gently and neatly away.
He ran his long thin fingers through his inch-thick curly hair that at seventy was still unyielding to age. Some said he dyed it.
‘You know,’ the General said, ‘why my Chief of Staff looks like he has been constipated for one whole week and is now clutching a live grenade missing its pin?’
Everybody laughed except the Chief of Staff, and Efosa, who tilted his head slightly to one side and slightly raised his eyebrows, politely displaying a restrained degree of interest in a rhetorical question.
‘Because he told me all you want in return for all you’ve done for us is just to meet me. I told him no one does anything for nothing, especially not a Nigerian, but he assured me you were different and he said I should meet you at least to thank you.
‘So, here we are on my first day in office and you are my first official guest, but instead of thanking you I’m having trouble deciding if I should lock you up in jail or in a mental institute.
‘But I know you are not mad. You are quite an intelligent man. You knew that if you told Musa what you just said now, he would have never allowed you and me to be in a room together. So you kept your amazing story till today, when I finally granted you audience. And that is the reason Musa is not in trouble. But you, young man, you have wasted your one chance with me. Let me explain.
‘When you contacted my campaign office and said you could win the election for us with your sixteen million followers on Twitter, everybody laughed except Musa. Musa knows technology. The demographics he asked you for, he had our analysts turn it into charts and graphs and plenty of grammar. In the end, even our campaign manager was shouting that if we don’t hire you, the opposition will snap you up.
‘But I was hesitant then, as I was hesitant to grant you a one on one. That is what you asked for, is it not? A one on one. But you agreed to settle for this.
‘You know why I was reluctant to meet you? You did not want anything in return for your sixteen million Twitter followers. This is what you said. You were going to give us this strategic access to millions of Nigerian youths and you did not want anything in return. We did our own homework. You are worth several millions. You are only thirty two and you are already a millionaire. This is what they told me. Businesses pay you millions to send a single message to your followers. I like how they call them followers; like you are their pastor and they are your disciples. And whatever you preach to them, they swallow whole without question.
‘We knew when the opposition offered you a million dollars. We had a meeting to decide what to do. All the people here today were in that meeting. Chief of Staff said you wouldn’t accept their money. You didn’t. But you still hadn’t said what you wanted.
‘Everybody wants something. I feel more comfortable when I know what someone wants. Then, I can tell you no way, or I can tell you, fine, let us do business. But you, you said you didn’t want anything. Until now. You told Chief of Staff that a one on one would be all the payment you required. Until now.
‘OK. Here is my biggest predicament now. I am grateful for your help. They are already calling this the election that the internet won. My analysts say that your Twitter is largely responsible for this. They showed me graphs to illustrate this. They called it a multiplier effect. I don’t really know what they mean by all their diagrams and all their pie charts, but numbers I know. You delivered for us. So you have earned this audience with me that you asked for, but if you know me, you will know that a handshake is all you can expect to go with my thanks. And had we shaken hands, you would have gained my respect, but instead you talk about secret rooms that do not exist and you ask me to let you help yourself to a loot that does not exist.’
‘The rooms exist.’
The General raised his finger. ‘I am not done. Look, OK. Let us clear up this issue of your secret rooms once and for all. You remember that I once ruled this country? You think I wouldn’t have known about such things?’
‘Aso Rock had not been built in your time.’
‘But I am privy to certain state secrets. I would have learnt of these secret rooms of yours.’
‘With due respect, sir, you were a military dictator. The custodians of the secret would never have told you such secrets.’
‘The custodians. What custodians? And why haven’t they told me now?’
‘It is only your first day.’
‘Ok. Let me ask you this. You say you want to enter this room that my predecessor stored dollars in. You think he left his dollars behind?’
‘He wouldn’t have been able to take it all.’
‘Look, young man. I am willing to pay you for your services from the campaign funds. We still have some money left over and we are still paying outstanding bills. I have thanked you but you obviously expected a treasure in return. I can categorically tell you that apart from the State House Clinic, there is no other hospital in this building. I can also assure you that there is no vault where any national treasures or any looted money is kept. But should I be informed of a stash of money somewhere in this building, such money would belong to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I would under no circumstances allow you to take a Kobo of it out of this place.’
The General suddenly got to his feet, all six foot lankiness of him. The others got up as well.
‘You notice I haven’t asked you how you came to know about these rooms?’
‘Yes. Because you don’t believe me.’
‘Exactly. You see what I’m saying? You are a very intelligent man, but this great fantasy has entered your head and you are not thinking properly so I will help you. Now, tell me who told you about these rooms?’
‘And who told your father?’
‘I don’t know who told him, but he worked in Aso Rock. He was a gardener.’
‘Your father was a gardener in Aso Rock?’
‘Yes. You knew him. He was your gardener during the civil war. You were his reference for the job at Aso Rock.’
The General stopped before he could say what he was about to say. He stared into Efosa’s face as if he was searching for the father’s features in the son. He walked up to Efosa and continued staring into his face.
‘Are you Osuji’s boy?’
The General pulled Efosa into an embrace while the others looked on. When he let go of the boy, his hand still on the shorter man’s shoulder, his eyes were watery. ‘Leave us alone,’ he said.
The Chief of Staff began to talk but the General, without looking, held up his finger at the short, rotund man.
They all left the office.
‘Come and sit with me. Osuji was a brother to me. I did not learn of his passing for five years until I ran into some old friends of ours. I was devastated. Osuji was a brother. He asked me to be your godfather but I told him such a concept had no place in Islam. I did promise him I would be as a father to you but after I was overthrown and he fled to Ghana with you and your mum, we lost touch for years until he managed to get my number. He told me you gained admission to London.’
They sat on a sofa.
‘Yes, sir. And I know you paid my school fees out of your pension.’
‘He wasn’t meant to tell you that.’
‘He told me a lot of things about you, sir.’
‘He did? Did he tell you how we used to play squash at the officers’ mess and I always thrashed him?’
Efosa smiled. ‘Yes. And you thought he was letting you win.’
‘So I made him a bet; if he could win a round I would build a house for him in his village, but if I won, he would become my driver in addition to being my gardener for the same pay. I just bought my Volkswagen Beetle then.’
‘And he played harder than he ever played and lost as usual and he sat on the court and started crying and saying in Igbo that why did this man bet over something he knew I’m bad at?’
‘And I answered him in Igbo, ‘So you can cry like a baby like this?”
‘And he was shocked that all this time you spoke fluent Igbo and you never told him.’
They laughed together.
‘You should have seen the look on his face that day. He looked shell shocked!’
The General recovered from laughter and sank his back into the sofa. HIs face turned to the ceiling. In time he sighed heavily and shook his head at some memory only he could see. ‘Your father was a brother,’ he said. He turned to Efosa. ‘Why didn’t you say you were Osuji’s boy all this time?’
‘I wasn’t sure you would remember him, sir.’
‘You weren’t sure? Your father didn’t tell you what he made me promise?’
‘Yes, sir. He did. You promised him that if I ever needed anything and I asked you, you would do it for me.’
‘And I never break my promises.’
‘I know, sir. He said so.’
‘So, this business of secret rooms, that’s just a joke, correct? Because, that is not what Osuji had in mind when he made me make that promise.’
‘It is not a joke, sir.’
‘No, sir. The rooms exist. He told me about them.’
‘Look, son, domestic staff share all sorts of fantastic stories amongst themselves. Let’s say it’s their way of entertaining themselves. Maybe Osuji heard a story, a rumour about these three rooms, but I assure you, it is nothing more than that. A rumour. And besides, he of all people would know that I would never let anyone take money that belongs to the Federation.’
‘He knows that, sir. And I do not intend to take any money. I am after something else. What I want to take has no value to anyone but myself. Sir, you promised my father that you would do whatever I asked. This is what I ask.’
‘Son, son. You are my son. I am telling you, there are no such rooms in this building. Nobody has told me about any such rooms. I promise you, if I knew of them I would take you there right this minute, but I don’t know of such rooms because they do not exist.’
‘I can take you to them.’
‘What? You know the way?’
‘Yes. My father told me where they are located.’
‘Osuji told you where they are located? Son…’
‘Behind your desk, the bookshelf, it’s a secret door.’
‘What? How do you know about that?’
‘My father told me.’
‘How did he know?’
‘The domestic staff share all sorts of stories with each other.’
‘He knows about that door? What is behind it? Where does it lead to?’
‘It doesn’t lead anywhere. It is a blast proof room.’
‘How could he possibly know that? Only a unit of the presidential guards know about that room.’
‘There is another hidden door in the room. It leads onto a corridor that eventually takes you to the three rooms I talked about.’
‘You know of this other secret door?’
‘Yes, sir. I can show you.’
The General sprang to his feet and stepped aside for Efosa to take the lead. Efosa walked behind the President’s desk and pulled the chair away, then he held his hands up and apart in front of the bookshelf and his head moved about as he searched for something. The General watched him.
‘What is happening here?’
The agent leaned forward to focus on one screen out of the matrix of screens in front of him. His colleague looked up from a novel he was reading. ‘What?’
‘He’s showing someone the door.’
‘The door?’ The agent rolled his swivel chair over to his colleague to take a look at the screen. ‘They always do that. But usually it’s a woman they take in there.’
‘Does he know there are cameras in there?’
‘Yes. He should.’
‘So he knows we’re watching, right?’
‘Yes. What are you thinking?’
‘Nothing. It’s just strange that he’s showing someone the door.’
‘That’s strange. Did his guest just open the door himself?’
‘He showed him how?’
‘I don’t know. It didn’t seem so.’
‘Who is he?’
‘I don’t know. I’m calling the boss.’
The bookshelf opened inwards and Efosa stepped into the hidden room. The General followed. The back of the bookshelf was foot-thick metal. The General pushed it and the hydraulics took over to shut the two into the blast proof room. The room itself had a single bed against the rear wall, a utilitarian sofa against one wall, and a desk with two chairs on either side. Computer monitors on the table stood back to back facing each chair. One black phone was on one side. A black phone, a red phone and a yellow phone were on the other side. Everything things else was grey or metal.
The General spread his arms.
‘See? There is no hidden door in here.’
Efosa walked to the single bed. He tucked his hands into the edge and pulled the mattress. It raised away and rested on the wall revealing a set of steps that led into a lit tunnel.
‘This is your escape route, sir.’
The General stood watching Efosa.
‘Shall we continue, sir?’ Efosa held out his hand at the tunnel.
‘How did you know about this?’
‘My father told me.’
‘Osuji could not have know about this. Even I was only shown this room and this tunnel a few days ago. How did Osuji know about this things?’
‘It will all become clear soon. We need to get to the rooms first.’
‘Son. Understand why I could not admit about this room and this tunnel, but since you already know about them, I will be level with you now. This tunnel is indeed an escape route. It leads to an underground train. Where that train leads to, I cannot reveal, unless you already know that. I am being absolutely honest with you now. Those rooms of yours do not exist. Osuji was wrong. I am intrigued he knew about this, but whoever told him about this must have lied to about the rooms. Probably to cover up the truth of the purpose of the tunnel. There are no rooms, only a train to take me to safety.’
‘My father knew about the train.’
‘Who told him about all this?’
‘The people who built it.’
‘No. Other people were brought in to build this. I need to take you to the rooms.’
‘You don’t believe me. I have been down there. There are no rooms. This tunnel leads to a train…’
‘An electric train with two detachable carriages that can operate independently. Each carriage is equipped for medical emergencies including radiation treatment. The train runs the length of Abuja and comes out at a secret military base where supersonic jets are waiting to fly you and others to safe locations outside the country.’
‘Osuji could never have know all of that.’
‘He did. We have to go now, sir.’
‘The secret service already knows we are in here. They are even watching us now. Down there, there are personnel on the train. They would have been alerted by now and they are armed.’
‘They won’t need their weapons, sir.’
‘I don’t know how you found out all these things. Osuji simply couldn’t have known. Lead the way.’
Efosa stepped into the cavity and went down the steps. The General followed.
They arrived at the end of a semicircular tunnel ten feet high and twice as wide. It was formed of separate metre wide concrete slabs that ran from the bottom to the top where a single row of white light ran all the way down the middle of the arch two hundred meters to two smooth metal doors that had no markings, no handles.
Efosa began to walk towards the doors, looking to the ground as he did so. The General followed. About halfway, Efosa stopped. He looked up and turned to the left to face the wall. He had stopped precisely where two of the concrete slabs met with no gap.
‘This is it.’
The General looked at the wall and at Efosa and back at the wall.
‘Where is it?’
‘Place your palm hand here. Right here, where I’m pointing.’
‘What are they doing now?’ the Chief Security Officer said.
He was standing behind the agent on whose screen the President and his guest could be seen. There were more agents standing, including the one who had called to tell the boss something was happening: the Eagle was in the tunnel and he had one civ with him.
‘I want everything thing we can get on this civ,’ the Chief said. ‘ I want the car that brought him here searched now. Find out where everyone who was in that meeting is now. Nobody leaves the Rock. And send two men to the Eagle’s lair. I want this Efosa brought to me once they come back.’
‘Sir, what if they get on the train?’ the agent in front of the monitor said.
‘They won’t. Those doors don’t open unless there’s an emergency, signaled from here.’
‘Should we alert the agents on board, just in case?’
‘No. I want to contain this. The fewer people who know about this the happier I would be, understand? Do you all understand?’
All screens went black.
‘What did you do?’ the Chief said.
The agent moved his hands away from the controls on his desk. ‘I didn’t do anything.’
‘Switch it on.’
The operator pressed a button twice. ‘They are on. The screens are just blank.’
The Chief snatched the radio from his belt. ‘Code red! Code red!’
The General placed his hand on the cold cement slab. He kept his hand on the wall and looked at Efosa. Efosa nodded at the wall. The General looked at the wall and immediately withdrew his hand. The two adjoining slabs continued retracting till six feet deep, they slid into the slabs to their sides, revealing a white room with a single white door at the end.
‘This is the entrance to the first room,’ Efosa said. ‘That door leads to it. The first room leads to the second room and the second room leads to the third.’
The General alternated between looking into the room and looking at Efosa. ‘What is behind that door?’ he said.
‘I told you, sir. The first room.’
Efosa stepped into the opening but the General stayed in the tunnel.
‘Son, you have to believe me, I did not know about this until now. But I cannot allow you to take anything away from here that belongs to the nation.’
‘What I want belongs to me, sir.’
‘What is it?’
‘I can’t describe it. You have to see it.’
The General studied Efosa’s face. He stepped into the gap and continued on to the first door.
The men stood side by side before the door.
‘Well, then, open it,’ the General said.
‘No, sir. Only you can open this door.’
‘Only you, sir.’
The General heaved a sigh as if he had accepted a difficult choice. He raised his hand to the handle but before he could touch it the door opened inwards. The General took a quick step back. Efosa was not beside him. He turned. Efosa was slowly backing away.
‘What is this? Where are you going?’
‘I cannot know what is in the room. I must leave you now.’
‘Come back here. Where are you going?’
‘Hello,’ someone said from the room that had just been revealed.
The General turned to look. His jaw dropped as he saw President Obama of the United States of America extending his arm, waiting for the General to shake hands with him.
The monitors came back on. There were several more agents in the surveillance room.
‘Chief,’ the agent in front of the monitors called his boss’s attention.
They all watched as Efosa, alone in the tunnel, walked back towards to the steps that led to the blast proof room.
‘Where is the President? Where is the President? Give me all cameras. Go.’
‘Come in. We’ve all been waiting for you,’ Obama said as he shook the General’s hand.
The General, never known to show on his face what was in his mind, shook his head and continued to shake it and his brow was creased and his eyes were full of disbelief.
‘What are you doing here? What is going on? You just spoke to me from the White House barely one hour ago. How did you get here?’
‘We’ll explain. Do come in.’
‘Efosa.’ The General turned. His hand still in Obama’s hand. ‘Efosa.’ Efosa was gone. The entrance from the tunnel was closed.
‘His job was to bring you here.’
‘Yep. It was my chef who took me to a door like the one you came through. He’d been with us since I was in the Senate. All the while, I thought I was just lucky to have found a good friend in him, but it was his job to be my friend and to take me to this room.’
‘None of this makes sense.’
‘Yeah? Wait till you see the third room. That makes no sense.’
‘Who is in there?’
‘Come on in and you’ll see.’
All the while, Obama had not stepped out of the room. Now he stepped back, the General’s hand still firmly on his, and he gently pulled the General into the room.
The door closed behind them. They were standing alone in a white space. It was white all around. Something felt odd about the room. The General turned to look at the door. There was no door, just whiteness. He looked up. It was white as well, but he could not tell where the ceiling began, whether it was low or high. He looked down and immediately gripped Obama’s hand and hopped. He had landed on solid white ground, but it didn’t look like there was a floor was beneath his feet.
‘Disconcerting, isn’t it?’ Obama said. ‘My first time, I near as hell shit myself.’
‘What is this place?’
‘This is the first room. We need to come in here to get to the second room.’
‘I’ll try to explain. We are not in Abuja right now. We are not anywhere, to be honest. This is a sort of passage. A short cut, if you will. It’s a fold in the space-time continuum. So, instead of travelling in a straight line to get from A to B, the space between the two points have been folded in half so that we can step from here to where we’re going.’
‘How is this possible?’
‘You know, bro, they can spend all day long explaining the science to me and I still won’t get it. They’ll explain it to you too. Maybe you’ll understand, then you’ll explain it to me.
‘You know, when you come to think of it, why isn’t it possible? Why isn’t anything possible? We are all products of this Universe. Everything we are is from the Universe. Not an atom of our bodies new. We are all made up of matter and energy that existed since the Big Bang. We are all stardust; our flesh, our blood, even our brains. Nothing about us is new, nothing about us is more than the Universe, not even our imagination. What I’m getting to is, your mind, which is made from the Universe, cannot imagine anything that is not of the Universe. The brain is not capable of any fantasy that is not possible – maybe just not possible in our world, but somewhere else in the infinity of time and space it is.
‘It’s the limitations of our human experience that’s limited our ability to feel what we truly are, an equal part of the Universe.
‘This place feels odd? That’s because your brain says so. Your brain is hard at work now trying to find a ceiling. A limit to the nothingness we are in right now. A point of reference from which to feel safe within the confines of all we’ve learnt to be true and constant about our world. A length, a breadth. Up close, afar. But those things do not exist beyond our interpretation of the Universe. The brain is constantly reluctant to think in ways that threaten to sweep the ground away from under its feet.
‘We are here now.’
They had not walked a step. Obama held his other hand out. A door was before them. The whiteness formed into walls, a floor, and a ceiling.
‘Will you do the honour, Mr. President?’ Obama said.
‘What is there?’ the General asked.
‘You will see.’
* * *
A phone rang. An agent answered it. ‘Yes, sir,’ he said. He stood from his desk and held the receiver towards the Chief. ‘It’s for you, sir,’ he said.
‘Who is it?’ said the Chief.
‘It’s the Eagle, sir,’ said the agent.
Every one in the room stopped talking and stared at the handset in the agent’s hand.
The Chief took the phone, and scanning the screens, he said, ‘Hello?’
‘One, five, four, two, four, nine, two, one.’
‘Adamu, my friend is going to be leaving my office soon. Give him any assistance he requests. In addition, I do not want to see anybody until I call you again. Nobody comes into my office and no phone calls are put through to me. Understand.’
‘I understand. Oga, where are you?’
The Chief’s eyes darted from screen to screen.
‘I am with friends. I will call you when I’m done.’
‘But, sir, where? I do not see you… Oga? Oga? Your Excellency? Your Excellency? Mr. President?’
Adamu slowly lowered the mouthpiece from his ear and looked at it. He put it to his ear again and listened. He handed the phone to the agent and scanned the monitors.
‘Where is he? Where is he?’
The General handed Obama’s mobile phone back to him.
‘You are welcome, Mr. President. Now, let me introduce you to the others. Netanyahu, you know. I don’t believe you’ve met Cameron.’
‘Mr. President,’ Cameron said as he shook hands with the General. His beaming face was red, as if he was meeting his favourite film star for the first time.
‘Mr. Prime Minister,’ the General said.
The General shook hands with each man, woman, president, prime minister, dictator, despot and monarch in turn, then looked around. There were no windows in the room, only a door, which he had not come through. There were rows of clothes on the walls, two rows, one up and one down, and the leaders of the world stood in front of the clothes and between them were ironing boards on which were partially pressed clothes.
‘Where is this place?’ the General asked Obama.
‘This is the backroom of a laundry.’
‘Yes. But where? What country?’
‘We are in Egypt.’
‘Yes, Egypt. Now that you’ve met everyone, you probably have questions.’
The General and Obama were in the middle of the room, surrounded by all the elected and non-elected rulers of the world, among them those who had inherited an absolute throne.
‘I have one question. Has Putin always been this short?’
The world’s leaders laughed. Putin laughed as well after Assad, standing next to him, interpreted for him.
‘Mr. President, there are two things I need to tell you now; first, as you might already have figured out, there is more to our world than you know, and more will be revealed to you, but you can never speak to anyone about this, not even to us present in this room today unless we are in this room; second, anything you’ve learnt today, and anything you will learn after today, you will forget the day your rule is over. Same goes for all of us, so, do not be afraid. There is fear in the next room. Fear so profound, you will age in an instant. But remember the second point; you will not remember any of this once your rule is over.’
‘I should not be afraid? How can I be afraid of anything after you have taken me across the work in a few minutes to this place? Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, all in the same room, and you are all smiling with each other. Look at Mugabe, my old friend. Was Mandela here as well?’
‘And Margaret Thatcher, and Winston Churchill, and George Washington, and Genghis Khan, and all the Pharaohs of Egypt. Every ruler since man first organized himself into states and recognized rulers.’
‘Even my predecessor?’
‘Yes. And we shall all miss him, as you shall miss me after I leave office.’
‘And you cannot tell me what is in the next room.’
‘There are no words in any language to explain it. It must be experienced to be comprehended.’
‘Can you give me any clues?’
‘Yes. One. Mr. President, you will wish you never became President after you see what’s in that room. You will never wish the Presidency on your worst enemy. You will look forward to the day you forget everything. You will wish to be assassinated. You will be tempted to plan your own assassination. But you will know compassion for your fellow human like you’ve never known it before and from compassion, you shall give orders for soldiers to die, for the innocent to he assassinated, for babies to be bombed in foreign lands. You will do terrible things for the love of humankind, and you will never enjoy a good night’s sleep again. Is that clue enough?’
‘I am ready. Let’s go.’
* * *
The monitors went black again. A few seconds later they came back to life.
‘There he is!’
The agent was pointing at a screen. The Chief, standing behind him, leaned in to look. The President was in the tunnel, walking back towards the blast proof room.
The Chief checked the time on his watch. Perhaps doubting, he looked at the white-faced clock on the wall. The Eagle had been gone for four hours. In that time, the civilian, Efosa, had emerged from the President’s office and left Aso Rock, the first lady had called to say she couldn’t get through to her husband, and dignitaries waiting to see and congratulate Mr. President had been picked up on hidden microphones whispering their true thoughts concerning him. But the Chief could not order his men to go after the President. For one, where would he send them? And the President had called and read out the day’s code to identify himself and convey to the recipient of the code that all was well.
The screen to the left of the one they’d been watching showed the President climbing out into the blast proof room. The Chief and all the agents leaned forward to concentrate on the screen.
The General opened the door that was a bookshelf on the other side and entered his office. All the agents looked to the screen to the left to see the President in his office.
The General went to his desk and sat in his chair. He placed his elbows onto the desk and buried his face in his palms.
‘Is he praying?’ someone said.
‘Zoom in,’ the Chief said.
The agent sitting in front of the controls pressed a button on a joystick. The General grew on the screen. All the men leaned closer to the screen.
The agent working the joystick held his head back and tilted it to one side and then to the other as if doing so would reveal something. In time he spoke what was in his mind: ‘I’m not sure, but was his hair that grey this morning?’
The General’s shoulders quaked silently on the screen. His face remained in his palms. The camera zoomed in close till it was full of the President’s head, full of grey hair.