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Caleb regained consciousness rudely. A bucket of ice cold water had been sloshed through the gates of the cell where he was lying, and he jerked up as the water sluiced all over him, rudely bringing him out of his faint. He sat halfway up and then groaned as pain radiated from his chest again.
I was shot, he thought, his head whirling. I was actually shot.
But when he gingerly pressed the middle of his chest where the pain was coming from, his fingers came away unstained with the blood he had expected to see. He stared at the fingers, stupefied. Why was he not bleeding?
“Rubber bullets.” A voice jerked his head up. He licked his lips nervously as he saw Chief Hanson Briggs and Benson looking in at him. An empty metal bucket dangled from Benson’s left hand.
“They shot you with rubber bullets.” Chief Hanson Briggs said again, his voice curt. “The size of shotgun shells, but nothing fatal. Must have hurt like hell though in such close quarters, and I bet you have a broken rib or two. The pain knocked you out.”
Caleb struggled to his feet, grabbing his side and wincing as every movement sent pain lancing through him. The chief was right, it felt like his ribs were stabbing him. “I guess I deserved it. Maybe worse.”
Chief Hanson Briggs frowned to hide his surprise. Why wasn’t Caleb trying to defend himself at least?
“I’ll be right back sir.” Benson said suddenly. “I have to make sure all this excitement hasn’t made my men forget they are supposed to be working.”
Chief Briggs nodded and nodded his thanks, but not before stepping forward and giving the cell bars an experimental shake. Satisfied that Caleb could not get out of the cell, he leaned close to the Chief and whispered to him, advising him to stay a few steps back from the cell at all times. Then he turned to leave, but not before giving Caleb an enigmatic smile. Caleb frowned as he watched the man go. He knew the security head had never trusted him from the get-go, but the look on the man’s face was annoying. It was hardly the time or place for schadenfreude.
When Benson’s footfalls faded, Chief Hanson Briggs repeated the question which had been plaguing him for hours. “Why? Why did you take that folder?”
Caleb leaned against the wall of the cell and tried to slow his breathing. Quick breaths sent stabbing pain through his chest.
“Sir, I’m sorry about everything. Please I need to talk to Preye..”
“Don’t you dare mention her name!” Chief Hanson Briggs warned furiously. “She knows you took advantage of her trust, and she never wants to see you again. And as long as I draw breath, you’ll never set eye son her again either! Now answer my question. Why?!”
Caleb felt a different kind of pain in his chest. The pain of loss. Preye knew everything , and she hated him. There was no point delaying his fate. The best he could do was to be honest to her father.
He slumped back against the cell wall in despair. “Olobiri is my community, sir. And I wanted reparation for the crimes perpetrated against it. The lawsuit against the oil company that poisoned our fishing waters was unfairly dropped, and I needed to prove it.”
Chief Hanson Briggs shook his head in bewilderment. “And so you rob me? What has that got to do with me?”
Caleb’s eyes narrowed. It was infuriating that even in the face of direct accusation, the Chief was still lying. “The oil company paid off some movers and shakers of this state to quash the lawsuit. All of you are responsible and that truth will come out some day, no matter what happens to me.”
“I wasn’t part of any agreement.” Chief Hanson Briggs said evenly. “I was not paid a dime by any oil company, so you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree.”
Caleb paused, confused as he remembered that he had not seen the Chief’s signature at the bottom of the document. Was the man telling the truth? “Then….then why do you have the document?”
The Chief seemed to debate within himself for a long moment, then decided to tell the truth. “Because I like to have leverage. The men who were truly paid by the oil company are people I had…dealings with in the past, and with such men, it’s good to have ammunition against them, so I bribed a clerk at the LGA office to get me a copy of the agreement.” He paused again, then stepped closer to the cell. “Many years ago, we were all into illegal oil bunkering. I admit I was technically a criminal, but unlike them, I was never a murderer. I could use a gun, I kidnapped , I terrorized, but I never killed. It worried them, you see. They felt if my hands were not as dirty, I could betray them.”
Caleb listened silently, mesmerized by the Chief’s voice which was tinged with the pain of memory. He held his breath, as though he knew if he breathed too hard, the man would stop talking.
“They shot a man.” The chief continued tersely. “They needed his land for something illegal, but he wouldn’t give in, so they shot him. Then they told me to eliminate his wife and child and throw their bodies in the sea. I can still remember taking them to the beach that night, and standing over them, hearing the child cry and the woman plead, her clothes soaked with her husband’s blood.”
“Did you do it?” Caleb asked, horrified yet fascinated.
The Chief seemed to break out of the trance that his memories had plunged him into. “It doesn’t matter.” He said curtly. “What matters is that they don’t trust me, these former compatriots of mine. And I needed to have the Olobiri documents, so that I had power over them, and my family was safe. They are ruthless, dangerous men.”
“Oh, I know they’re dangerous, trust me.” Caleb mumbled.
“I know you work for them.” The Chief said. “But i never knew they would try to get to me through the angle of my daughter. It was after i found out they had an inside man that I checked the surveillance videos of the camera watching the elevator. And I saw you going in there three nights ago…”
“Three nights ago?” Caleb interrupted. “I only got went in there today.”
Chief Hanson Briggs’ lips tightened. “You think wearing a face cap hid your identity, but it doesn’t matter. The pin codes only got you as far as the second door, but you had to get the key card to bypass the extra firewall I newly installed on it. You’ve being caught. Why bother lying?”
Caleb moved closer to the bars of the cell, an earnest tone creeping into his voice “Chief, I swear to you I only got that key card this night and entered the basement today. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I know no pin codes.”
Chief Hanson Briggs looked confused for a moment. He rummaged in his pocket. “You got access using this key card you stole from Preye because…”
His face went slack as his fingers found nothing. “The key card. It’s gone.”
Caleb felt panic bloom in his chest. “Chief, who else knew the pin codes?”
“Benson. I told him a few weeks ago. Oh my God. He’s also working for those men.” Horror crept into the chief’s eyes. “And he must have taken the key card from my pocket before he left a few minutes ago. That means he’s going for the documents. He’s in the house..”
Fear gripped Caleb fully and he stretched an arm through the cell bars, grabbing a hank of the Chief’s top. “Where’s your daughter, sir? Is she alone?”
A muted explosion shut them both up. Then the staccato sound of gunfire filtered through to them. It was unmistakably coming from within the grounds of the Briggs home. Chief Hanson Briggs and Caleb stared at each other, their alarm growing.
“Preye.” They both breathed at the same time.
Check back on Tuesday for the final episodes of Driving Miss Crazy.