When the loud noise filled Kate’s ears, she was sure she had been shot. She waited for the pain of a bullet travelling from the barrel of the gun that had been pressed against her neck. Her eyes were tightly shut, every muscle in her body taut in anticipation of the searing pain that would come before death. Surely there was no way she would survive an injury that bad…
She could hear Chris’s voice, and sorrow filled her that he would have to watch her die. Her thoughts went to her family in Lagos; her mother; her young siblings. They would be devastated when they heard about what happened to her. She wondered why she was still feeling numb. Or was she already gone? Chris’s voice cut through her thoughts again.
“Kate! Open your eyes, damn it!”
Kate opened her eyes as someone shook her. It was Chris, holding her arms tight as he peered worriedly into her face. She reached up and touched the side of her neck, expecting to feel sticky blood and an open wound. But her neck was not wet or wounded, and when she brought the hand around to stare at it blankly, her fingers were unstained.
She turned her head to the side and saw the Barrister lying on the ground, moving weakly. As she watched, three policemen converged on the man, one pulling away the gun from his grasp. The lawyer stared up groggily as the policemen shouted at him, their weapons drawn. A trickle of blood ran over his forehead and down the side of his face.
Kate was confused. She was supposed to be shot; she had heard a gunshot. Why was Barrister Bishop Ekanem the one who was bleeding from the head?
She jerked around as Chris shook her again.
“Kate! Say something for God’s sake. Are you hurt?”
“I think she’s just stunned.” Kate turned to see Deji standing beside her. He reached forward and cupped the back of her neck. “I think she’s in shock.”
Kate struggled to understand what was happening. “He shot me..”
“No, he didn’t.” Chris sighed and leaned back, turning to Deji. “She’s fine. I think you’re right; she’s just in shock.”
“I heard the gunshot…” Kate insisted weakly.
“No one shot anyone, okay?” Chris said, impatience creeping into his voice. “Snap out of it. what you heard was her doing.” He pointed behind Kate. “She hit him on the head with a laptop as he stepped out of his office.”
Kate followed his finger and saw the Barrister’s secretary watching them with a smug look on her face, a dented laptop on the table beside her.
“Dude was a creep anyway. Worst boss ever, always making suggestive comments and ‘accidentally’ touching me.” the secretary said. She crossed her arms, the movement causing her generous cleavage to become a source of confusion to the males nearest to her. Oblivious to the attention her body was drawing, she grinned at Kate. “Don’t bother to thank me for saving your life, girl. Trust me, I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. Best thing is that I used his own laptop.”
The policemen drew the Barrister to his feet and leaned him over the secretary’s table, using handcuffs to restrain him. One of the policemen reached into the lawyer’s pocket and took out his phone. He tapped the screen for a few moments, then nodded, a grim look on his face. “Just as we suspected. He was texting one of the dead men downstairs, asking them if they had managed to escape the shoot-out. I’m sure when we scroll though his chat history, we’ll see where he asked them to waylay and abduct or kill Miss Kate Udoh here when she arrived at midday. He’s definitely the mastermind we’ve been searching for.”
Kate shuddered and Chris pulled her into his embrace.
“Sorry I kept you in the dark about most of this.” Chris said to Deji as he gently rubbed Kate’s shoulders. “This morning, when Kate mentioned the fact that Barrister Ekanem knew about the hidden cameras I found in her room , I became instantly suspicious. Idara spent the whole night under police interrogation, hinting that she had been working under the influence of a powerful ally to the late Chief, although she still expressed a fear to reveal his identity. The comment about the hidden cameras put the lawyer squarely in my radar.”
“The Barrister really sounded like he hated the late Chief and his family. How did Chief Bassey Itah miss all that hostility?” Deji asked.
Chris shook his head. “Maybe he didn’t, after all. The chef hired me to go through the company books because some funds were mysteriously growing wings. During the course of my investigation, I came across the trail of Imoh Itah’s careless spending, but that wasn’t the real leak in the Itah money basket. Just this morning, I found it. The Barrister, who was the Chief’s closest business partner as well as friend, had been shrewdly siphoning money without leaving a trace.”
Chris paused as the policemen pushed the Barrister to his feet and marched him out the reception lounge. As he walked past them, his eyes met Kate’s, and the fury and heat in their depths made her shudder and burrow closer to Chris. The man exuded an aura of evil, and the moment he stepped out of the lounge, followed by a group of wary policeman and noisy crowd of gawkers—the space immediately felt cleaner.
“I think Chief Bassey Itah knew something was up, but he needed proof and that was why he hired me. But he waited too long, and I was not fast enough to catch the thief.” Chris said soberly.
Kate leaned back slightly and looked up into Chris’s face in surprise. She had sensed a note of bitterness in his voice.
“Don’t blame yourself.” Her own voice sounded strange to her, a shaky half-whisper.
“Only if you don’t blame yourself as well.” Chris’s warm breath fanned over her face as he spoke and she shuddered, but it was no longer because of fear. Even after her close brush with death, all he had to do was touch her and sparks flew between them.
Deji’s eyes narrowed and he threw his hands up as Chris obeyed the siren call of Kate’s lips and pressed his mouth against hers.
“Really, guys? You’re doing this here?”
Kate ignored Deji’s protest as she relished the softness of Chris’s lips. When she finally pulled back, tears were in her eyes. Kissing Chris after all that had happened was just what she needed.
And yet, given certain hard decisions she had to make, it was the last thing she should be doing.