THE HEIST OF IRON MOUNTAIN (Amara Quest Series)

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CHAPTER 1

“What is wrong with Blackberry phones these days? And you just bought this one,” Derek fumed from the back seat of his car. He dipped his hands in the pocket of his Balmain jeans and brought a pack of mint bubble gum; he popped one in his mouth. He always makes sure not to run out of bubble gum because it keeps him alert and awake at all times as his tight schedule barely allows him enough sleep.

He turned the phone around in his hands, he couldn’t hide his frustration.

Derek had always wondered why he couldn’t get a single electronic device that works just fine whenever he comes back to Nigeria. He could have bought the newly released iPhone 11 pro when he was overseas but it was all business and work with no spare time to go shopping for the things he needed; to cap it all he dreaded online shopping because of the delivery process, last time he ordered an item from Amazon, he had already left the country by the time it was delivered.

The compressor of the air-conditioner in his sitting room had been changed twice before he finally ordered a new one from eBay; he was so frustrated with the bane of the sales of low quality products in the country.

“Oga, that Blackberry Passport na the original one no be China and it’s the best I could find in the plaza yesterday, Sir,” Segun said while maneuvering the white Rolls Royce SUV through the traffic.

He was trying his best to avoid getting the car scratched by most of the ugly looking Molue’s and Keke Napep (tricycle) which they were unfortunate enough to be snuggled in-between.

Segun is the Personal Assistant and driver to Derek Oscar so he had to make sure he was always comfortable at all times so that he could focus on his business – those were his orders.

“My old Samsung S5 had a longer battery life than this big for nothing, I just turned on my data to Google something and the battery drains just like that,” he sighed and dropped the phone carelessly on the plush red leather seat and it landed with a thud.

“When will Nigerians stop importing fake products for God’s sake? Which other phone do you know that is far better than this junk?” he fumed.

Forty-five minutes before the Security conference would begin and here he was stuck in a traffic jam, the norm of the bustling city of Lagos – it was in times like this that Derek wished he had a flying car or better still, his own helicopter.

“Sir, how about an Iphone, sir,” Segun said, the Toyota Corolla in front of him moved forward a bit before stopping abruptly and he followed suit nearly butting the car from behind.

“I’m not a big fan of Apple products and I have warned you severally to quit that double sir you begin and end every statement with, but it seems your brain memory factory-resets itself whenever you wake up every morning,”

“I’m sorry sir, Iphones are the rave of the moment and I think the batteries last long enough,” Segun said.

The car in front had moved a few kilometers once again and stopped, A reckless Keke Napep tried to overtake him and some cars tried to maneuver their way into the space it created but Segun beat them to it. He wound down his glass;

“I’m warning you for the last time, if you scratch this car that is the end of your working day as a Keke driver,” he warned the tricycle driver.

“I’m not talking about raves; I’m talking about a good phone that will serve my needs, I might buy one here and it will develop one fault overnight,”

“I will buy from SLOT this time around. They sell original products. You can give it a try sir, I’m sure you won’t regret it,”

“Well then, you have to get me one today,”

“Okay sir,”

“But that would be after the conference, I wouldn’t want to look for you when I’m through,”

“No problem at all, sir,”

“Or rather, don’t worry about it, I would order it online so that they deliver it along with other things I ordered this evening,”

“You just have to request for the latest Apple phone in the market,” Segun said.

“Segun, get me the morning papers and can you tune up the music, you know my favorite,” he said.

“Forever Young” by Jay Z ft Mr. Hudson soon wafted from the speakers of the SUV and Derek closed his eye allowing himself to be drawn into the music and sang along – after that, his second favorite song, “Kedu America” by Osadebe, the Nigerian Highlife legend came on before any other song.

“Newspaper!” Segun shouted and three different newspaper vendors rushed to the car; two of them were looking like under aged and underfed boys and the third one was a much older man.

They were advertising the newspapers and magazines they were selling and promising to give him good discounts.

The heavy noise on the road engulfed the inside of the SUV as soon as Segun turned down the windshield and Derek briefly covered his ears with his palms; car horns of different varieties were blaring incessantly without restraint, poor engines from huge lorries and fuel tankers groaned as if in annoyance as everyone struggled through the tiniest space in the traffic, the main aim was to keep moving forward at all cost.

Ever since commercial motorcycles were banned from all the major roads, tricycles popularly known as Keke Marwa or Keke Napep seem to have taken up the lead as the most annoying road users to ply the road with; they barely missed vehicles by inches while zigzagging their way through the traffic.

He just observed everything from the dark tinted glass of the Rolls.

Some hawkers were beginning to cluster around the vehicle; some hawking sausage rolls popularly known as Gala, and canned drinks, passengers stretched out their hands from the windows of danfo buses to buy them.

The most disgusting of all were the ones hawking akara balls; the bean cakes were arranged neatly on the trays of the hawkers and no attempt was made to cover them from the dirt and bacteria’s present in the air, one could see flies perching on some of the bean cakes.

It’s a typical sight of Lagos morning rush on the busy road; so many people rushing to get on a commercial bus, lots of noise as abuses and vulgar words were traded in Yoruba language and Pidgin English, road side sellers advertising their wares and trying to outshout each other in the process – it was one hell of a scene.

“Na only one person I call o. Oga bring ‘Sun’ and ‘Vanguard’, all of you go away and make una no touch this car,” Segun took the newspapers with one hand, the other hand gripped the steering and he opened the dashboard and gave the older man a crisp One thousand Naira note and immediately wound up the windscreen.

The man was tapping lightly on the glass and was saying something but Segun kept on telling him to keep the change but obviously the man couldn’t hear him.

Derek scanned through the papers, thumbing through the smooth leaves which were very light and sensitive as if it could dissipate when rubbed between the thumbs like a burnt paper. The scent of freshly printed paper filled the inside the vehicle and he loved that scent.

“Get me some Gala too,” Derek said from the back. He loved chewing on something that was not bubble gum while reading but Amara; his fiancé would have teased the hell out of him if she was there with him.

She would have sneered at him, creating silly acronyms like; big man no dey chop gala for road, big men no dey chop chewing gum like woman, big men no dey do this – big men no dey do that. It really amused him and made him admire her raw intelligence the more; Amara was one of a kind, she was different and straight-forward and it made him love her the more.

He smiled unconsciously.

Segun turned down the windscreen again by pushing a button on the door handle;

“I said you can keep the change,” he told the vendor and his wrinkled face widened as a big grin appeared on his face.

“O seun ati olorun bukun fun o sir,” the poor old man began showering praises in Yoruba.

Segun acknowledged the man. He signaled a light-skinned teenage girl who was hawking Gala and picked up two sausage rolls from the tray, he gave her another crisp five hundred naira note and wound up the windscreen.

He placed the Gala’s in plastic cup holder on the door and pressed a button; it slid towards the back seat and Derek took them and placed them on a miniature side table.

“Sir, I think another threat message has been sent to your official email address,” Segun said looking down at the Samsung galaxy which was placed on a wireless charging dock,

“Just keep archiving it and keep your eyes on the road,” Derek said with a flick of his hand.

He was getting tired of the threatening emails he had been receiving lately; he had already reported it to the police and they’ve been trying to track down the IP address without any luck; he had finally decided to wave it aside since there seems to be no visible threat to his life.

“And the housing agent called this morning, he said that I should notify you of –“

“Oh yes, It should be a surprise, make sure Amara doesn’t know about it,” he bit off one of the sausage rolls and dropped it back in the cup holder; he picked up the Blackberry Passport Smartphone and sent a text to Amara.

LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA HOTEL, LEKKI – 9:00PM. DBL, LOVE U ;)

He shouldn’t have added the smiley, Amara would know that he was up to something; he chuckled and resumed reading the newspaper, a satisfied smile still on his face.

They had somehow managed to break free from the noisy traffic, a defunct traffic light was up ahead and two Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were controlling the traffic at the intersection frantically to further emphasize the non-functionality of the traffic light.

Segun jammed the breaks abruptly and Derek looked up from the Tech section he was reading to check what the disturbance was all about.

“Sorry about that sir, I doubt these two guys know what they’re doing here. I’m already in the middle of the road and then they start waving at me to stop,” Segun said apologetically.

Derek shook his head impatiently, “Segun, I thought I’ve warned you severally to stop over speeding, you of all people to know that Nigeria roads are not tracks for showing off your driving skills,”

“I wasn’t, sir,”

The two road Marshalls ordered him to park by the side of the road and a seriously pissed Segun complied.

One of them kept on controlling traffic while the other one was tapping on the glass with a baton which he clutched tightly; Segun jerked up the hand brake and opened the door.

As soon as he got out of the car, he began talking with the man and it was beginning to last too long for Derek to tolerate.

He dropped the papers and opened the door of the SUV, a foot rest unfolded and he stepped on it with one foot before climbing down.

“What’s the matter, mister?” he asked as soon as he got outside and put on his dark sun shades.

Outside the air-conditioned comfort of the car smelt a lot like the underground tunnel in Massachusetts which he used as an escape route during the Malibu saga two years ago, but he concealed his discomfort briefly before pulling out his scented handkerchief to shield his nose from the acrid smell of the massive federal government sewer they were asked to park close to.

The middle-aged and heavy set Marshall looked him over; he looked more like a tout, and was sweating profusely.

“You no fit greet officer abi?” he asked in Pidgin while looking Derek over with his squinted eyes.

“You don’t seem to understand, haven’t you told him Segun? Please officer, if you don’t mind, I have an important meeting to attend to right now and I’ve already contended myself enough with your poorly controlled traffic,” Derek tried his best to avoid looking into the gutter, the smell was already trying to make him throw up and it was not helping his rising temper in any way.

“Who you be sef? Because you dey drive big car na so you come here dey speak grammar. Come on bring your particulars, tinted glass permit, road worthy permit and all your papers or you follow me go office now, maybe if we reach there you go blow grammar for big oga,”

Segun was explaining to him that they were in a hurry and kept on trying to calm him down.

Derek couldn’t stand all of it any longer; he sighed and got back in the car. Through the reinforced tinted glass, he could see Segun hand him some money but the man kept on shouting before he was handed more notes.

Segun finally got in and started the car,

“I told the fool that you are pals with the president and you were given the OFR award by the Federal government just a few years ago and he nearly urinated in his pants, he was even trying to return the money but I told him not to worry,” he said and laughed loudly, he finds the class intimidation in Nigeria amusing.

“The werey officer should have guessed from the car first, all they do here is to keep looking for big fishes to catch and rip off. They don’t just see a big car and ignore it, one day they’ll surely get into real trouble,” Segun added, a wide grin still on his face.

“It’s their problem and not mine, I can’t stand the amount of illiterate officers I’m forced to encounter every time I’m in Nigeria,”

“I was mostly trying to prevent him from checking the trunk of the car, you know …the er…weapons, sir. But the man should have shown some respect,”

“I still love Naija though,” Derek said smiling and looking at the passing structures as Segun stepped on the gas.

“Yes, I know sir;” Segun smiled and looked at the drivers mirror to get a view of Derek’s face.”

“Enough with the sir and concentrate on the road,” he looked out of the window and observed that the environment was becoming more welcoming and the road less bumpy, he soon recognized where they were and was satisfied knowing that with the current speed they would get to Eko Suites and hotels in just a few minutes.

“You’ve got to keep that speed,” Derek said.

“Roger that, sir,” it sounded more like it was the car that responded as it bounced into a new speed level with the screech of the tires on the tarred road.

Derek slept off with the newspaper still on his laps, for the first time in two days.

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