Your Brief Bio:
My name is Aghogho Ekwiekwie from Delta State. I love reading and writing. I have completed my manuscript for my novel and awaiting publishing. I write more on gender issues and societal happenings.
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
: The Clique narrates the story of Richard Badmus, a conscientious worker who finds himself in the midst of a corrupt and drug trafficking organization. Richard stumbles upon the darkest secret of the organization and tries to expose them. However, his case is like that of an ant against the elephant. He stands alone again "The Clique" that will not hesitate to stamp out anyone that works against their common interests. Richard is eventually made to dance to their tunes as the organization threatened to eliminate his family, the only people that matter to him. The story is a clear demonstration of evil versus good and how evil sometimes triumph.
Richard Badmos was restless. It’s 2:25 a.m. but sleep eluded him. He was just tossing in bed like an overfed child. The discovery he made over the weekend still played on his mind. Sleeping peacefully beside him, as peaceful as a child with no worries, was Felicia Badmos, his wife; he stared admiringly at her beautiful oval face, the rise and fall of her full chest, and smiled contentedly to himself. His family constituted his entire universe. He could not imagine how badly hurt he would feel should anything happened to them. It would be a disaster of cosmic proportions, one he was certain he would never survive. Calmly, he dragged himself out of bed and navigated his way to the childrens room where Gbenga and Toyin were sleeping soundly. Listening to their faintly - hissing sound, that he knew would soon turn into a snore, his face dissolved into a happy mirth as a kind of ineffable joy welled up inside him. What a wonderful family God has blessed him with, he thought. He moved to the window and drew the blind aside. As he stared into the black night, his thought drifted back to the incident that happened over the weekend.
Stratem Nigeria Limited was a well-known company across the country. Their reputation preceded them. They were a recognized distributor, wholesaler and retailer of all forms of medical equipment. Major hospitals and medical outfit all over the country only purchased medical equipment from Stratem since their products were trustworthy. Dr. Clifford, the CEO of Stratem, was a retired medical doctor who had established a cordial relationship with men of timber and caliber, and he had also cultivated friendship with politicians who pushed all contracts that had to do with the supply of medical equipment to all government owned hospitals his way. However, there is always a dirty story behind every reputable company. So Stratem is not without a skeleton in their golden closet. Only few workers in the company who had won the trust of the Clique, the Clique that ran the company as board members, were the ones who had knowledge of the dirty stain on Stratems under-pant. Richard Badmos, a worker at Stratem, was not among those few. Richard was a very principled man who invariably played by the book and can never deviate from the right standard. Anything less than the truth, no matter what, was never tolerated by him. As a member of Jehovah Witnesses, his religious background had a profound influence on him and, as such, he had always stuck to the saying Honesty is the best policy. It was as a result of this outlook that made the company gave him, at the end of their fiscal year, the award of the most conscientious worker. Ironically, this same outlook is the reason why he has not been given much responsibility in the company, at least the ones that could lead him to unearth Stratems heap of dirt. The Clique could not afford giving him a privy to their dark side. But circumstances at times could make you compromise your principle as it was with the company on this particular day. They have decided to have their heart in their mouth and hope for the best outcome. At the board members meeting, they decided to send Richard to accomplish a task that needed immediate attention.
Always as busy as a bee, Richard buried his head on a stack of papers in his office working frantically like there is a deadline for filing those papers. There is no deadline but he, Richard of course, has set a deadline for completing those papers and the deadline was before the end of the board meeting by the board members which was still on-going. He was not trying to impress anyone. He believed that any employee who used anytime of his working hour for some purpose other than that of the company was cheating their employer. He, therefore, tried not to use office hour for his own benefit. He was still working when Gloria, the companys secretary and Richards admirer, entered his office. Gloria, a paragon of beauty, did not in any way look inelegant. Her dressing and grooming always befit the occasion; she has soft spot for Richard, and he knew for she has made this quite glaring to him, but he has to stick to the scriptural injunction never to engage in adultery. Today, Gloria looks simply irresistible in her ash color trouser suit.
Hello Richie Gloria greeted sultrily, smiling from ear to ear. Richard raised his head to acknowledge her presence, even commending her Im out to devour dressing. This really gladdens her heart as she continued to expand the smile on her face. Its very nice of you to have noticed. Anyway, Dr. Clifford asked to see you.”
The Chairman? Richard asked, looking surprised and confused at the same time. He has never been invited to the board members meeting. I thought the board members were in a meeting. Gloria replied affirmatively and told him that his name came up during the meeting, hence, he was summoned. Summoned?
Hey, you suddenly look ashen. Have you done anything wrong?
Certainly not; Im just wondering why he would call for me, or do you have an idea?
Yes, but am not telling. You will find out when you get there, dearie.”
As they drew close to the conference room, Richard tried not to feel apprehensive. His mind raced through the activities of the past weeks, he could not pinpoint anywhere that he defaulted or broke the companys rules and regulations. Surely, they needed him for something else, he concluded. At the conference room, Richard sat at the head of the table, directly facing the eight board members. He felt like someone facing a panel of judges who will reach a decision that will forever alter his life. He tried to calm himself but the more he tried the more his strength kept flagging. Focus, focus, focus. The Chairman, as Dr. Clifford Unaegbu is fondly called, welcomed Richard. Showing off his gentle and amiable side, he tried to put an excited Richard at ease by telling him the reason why he was invited to the board meeting.
Mr. Richard, I know you are surprised by this sudden invitation to our meeting. Our main purpose of inviting you is to beg of some of your time. We would like you to oversee the offloading of our cargo tonight, Richard widened his eyes in disbelieve. If being summoned to the board meeting was a surprise, the request coming from the chairman was a shocker. He had never been given the opportunity to shoulder such responsibility. Not that it bothered him anymore, like it used to at first, since he had found out that the company is purposely exempting him from certain responsibility of which offloading of cargoes was one of them. John had always been in charge of wharf and anytime he tried to extract any info about offloading of goods from the wharf, John invariably refused him such info. The question playing on his mind was ‘what of John? It seemed Dr. Clifford read his mind. Im sure you knew John is in charge of wharf and you might be wondering why he is not here. At the moment he is indisposed and we must offload the goods tonight. So, we can count on you to do that for us, yes? Richard laughed inwardly. This wasnt a request; its more like an order. But he was more than capable to handle it. Perhaps, he would satisfy his curiosity about the mystery behind wharf. Richard promised to do the job well and his response seemed to soothe the heart of the board members, even though they were still scared of what his over-zealousness could cost them especially if he ventures to discover the skeleton in their golden closet.
I would like to have a copy of the manifest, Dr. Clifford rummaged through a drawer, brought out the manifest and gave it to Richard. After his departure, the meeting was brought to a close.
That night, at around 8:30 p.m., the companys ship docked at the wharf. The ever punctual Richard had been waiting since 7:00 p.m. for the arrival of the ship. Young men, waiting to be hired as carrier, were moving to and fro. Richard had collected his pass at the office and the time of arrival for the cargo ship is 8:00 p.m. At quarter past eight, he tried the chairmans number so as to inform him about the delay but he was not reachable. He was beginning to work himself up when he heard a loud honking from the riverside. He jumped out of his car, dashed straight for the dock, feeling really boisterous. He could see clearly, with the aid of searchlight at the dockyard, the name of the cargo ship neatly emblazoned Juliet, he smiled. So it was true the chairman named the companys cargo ship after his first daughter, he thought to himself. He braced himself for the work ahead. There about 1000 cartons to unload; surely, its going to be a long night. He tried to clear at the security post, showing his pass and his company I.D card. The security men looked askance at him.
Wetin happen to oga John? Na him we know, nor to you, the short one said to Richard.
John went for another assignment. I will be in charge today.
Hope say you go do us well o. Make you ready our egunje o like oga John dey do or else we go leak the secret, you hear? the taller one said, tweaking his ear to emphasis his point.
What secret? asked Richard.
Hehehehenor just pretend say you nor know the reason why una dey off load for night o.
Richard still looks surprised. Before he left the office, Gloria gave him 60,000 naira to give to the security men. When he asked what the money was for, she simply said for their good services. Now they talk of secretwhat secret? There is only one way to find out and he would surely find out, not from anyone, but all by himself. As soon as he gave the money to the men, he was immediately cleared. He approached the captain in charge of the companys ship who gave him the manifest which Richard cross-check with the chairmans just to be sure they tally. They both sign each copy and the captain left everything in his care having concluded his own duties. The hire hands were already waiting to commence work; as soon as Richard open Stratems caravan, they sprang into action, working at breakneck speed so as to finish on time because they are expecting another ship to dock. As they work, Richard was screaming at the top of his voice cautioning them on the slipshod manner in which they handle the cartons. For all they care, he might as well be screaming at the thin air. At the end, no accident was recorded, no equipment was damaged. He paid them their dues and even added tips which gladden the hearts of the hired hands. They took themselves off to some bar where they would spend the money on booze and babes until the next ship would dock.
It was well past 10 p.m. before Richard finally had the warehouse to himself. The night was quite frigid. Richard longed for the comfort Felicias warmth would have offered him in their cozy room but he will certainly miss that as he had already booked a room at Top Choice hotel very close to the wharf. He had decided to count the cartons again before he would finally call it a day. Then he noticed it again. Although he had noticed it while the goods were been moved inside, he never paid much attention. Some of the cartons were faintly marked; one had to look closely for one to notice the red marker with which the cartons were marked. This is strange, he thought. After counting, the marked cartons were about 200 in number. His inquisitive heart got the better of him. He decided to open and see what was inside; perhaps, this will lead him to the companys secret. On opening about five of the cartons, Richard was shocked to discover that CORTIQUE---a kind of hard drugs---were hidden inside. He almost ran amok, for his conscience pummeled him to act immediately. He knew he had to do something because he could not ignore the prodding of his heart as this would dent, even deaden, his conscience. NDLEA? Yes, he has to inform them about this shock discovery, this dark secret hidden by the company since time immemorial. But first, he must call Gloria to warn her about the secret of the company so she wont be caught unprepared when NDLEA will swoop on Stratem. Gloria picked the phone at the first ringing. She was so excited to hear from Richard but the seriousness in the tone of his voice chased away that excitement. He told her everything he saw; even telling her that, from this discovery, he believed that Stratem was just being used to carry out illegal activities like drug trafficking by the board members. Gloria pretended she was genuinely shocked by this revelation. Tactfully, she enquired if Richard had informed anyone beside herself.
Im yet to but I have made up my mind to report the matter to NDLEA as soon as possible. I will be taking some cartons along to present as evidence so my report wont sound as hearsay, he replied.
Gloria became petrified for she knew Richard will make good his threat. He would go to any length to correct anything he felt needed correction. Even without seeing the smoke, she could see the fire already consuming the mountain at a lightning speed. Putting on her best persuasive voice, she tried talking Richard out of that idea of reporting to the NDLEA. First, they should talk about it on Monday morning, and then deliberate on the best course of action to take. Though not fully taken in with her suggestion, Richard chose to play along and wait until Monday to have that talk with her.
Darling, I was looking for you
The voice of Felicia startled Richard back into the present. He was so deep in thought so much so that he didnt even noticed her coming into the childrens room. He turned and saw his lovely wife walking toward him. He drew the blind together.
I couldnt sleep, said Richard
You look burdened. Is there something bothering you?
Not at all, Im only fagged out as a result of the work at the wharf on Friday night.”
I know when your stress is work-related. You were so far away when I came in. Please, dont hide the truth from me.
Im ok, really. He placed his arm around her shoulder, Common, lets go back to bed.
Monday morning. At the office, Richard tried to immerse himself in his work but concentration was really hard to come by. He could not do anything right at the moment because he wasnt thinking straight. He was itching to have that talk with Gloria. He was so occupied with his thoughts that he failed to notice the tensed atmosphere around the office. The staff all tip-toed; when Jane brought a cheque for Richard to sign, he asked her if she had seen Gloria that morning. Her office was still locked. Jane told her Gloria had been in the Chairmans office since resumption. She said that was quite unusual.
Dr. Anayo was in a meeting with the chairman when they summoned Gloria. From the look on Dr. Anayos face, I think something must have really upset him, Jane said.
Richard was jolted by this information. What could be going on in the chairmans office? Why was Gloria invited into the office? His office was beginning to get stuffy even with the air-conditioning at full throttle. Jane came to inform him that the chairman would like to see him at the conference room. He braced himself for what lied ahead. He was expecting to see Gloria at the conference room but only the chairman and Dr. Anayo were there, wearing unfriendly faces. His heart flew. Could Gloria have revealed their secret talk?
Mr. Badmus, are you aware that you have broken the companys policy? Dr. Anayo asked through his teeth.
Richard wore a blank look as he tried to think of a better way to answer that question. He was lost in the moment. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. The truth then hit him like the Hiroshima bomb; he had been stabbed in the back. Gloria had plunged the knife deep in. The chairman, without mincing words, told him those cartons he opened ought to remain sealed until the board members were ready to have them unsealed. He informed him that his inquisitiveness is an offence punishable under the law. To justify his actions, Richard said he was trying to make sure they had the right cartons. Dr. Anayo, who didnt buy his excuse, told him that was no excuse since the companys name and logo were on the said cartons.
In any case, he said, pointing his fore finger at Richard to emphasize his point, “the company will pardon this wrongdoing on one condition, not a word of this to anyone, not even the NDLEA!
Richard left the chairmans office a livid man. He was livid with Gloria for betraying him, telling these drug dealers of his intent; he was livid with the management who tried to make him ignore the prodding of his conscience. He dashed straight for Glorias office. Sitting behind her desk, Gloria looked calm in her scarlet trouser-suit. The angry Richard, throwing all courtesy to the wind, raved at Gloria, calling her backbiter who betrayed trust repose on her.
Im sorry Richie but I was looking out for your safety, said Gloria.
Oh please safe your breath. You sabotage my entire plan, now you sit there telling me you are looking out for my safety?”
The company dabbles in hard drugs. This is where they generate most of their revenue. It is a hidden secret that very few staff knows. Just so you know, they have the backing of highly placed men in the society, even politicians.
What! Richard was shocked to hear this. Hard drugs? And you never bothered to report to appropriate authority?
What can anyone do? They are the elephants, we are the ants.
This new information still sounded incredible to Richard. Now he understood why he had been excluded from some activities. But their dirty secret is out in the open for all to see. At least, he could see it. He vowed never to back down from his plan of exposing the company. If anything, he was more than resolved to pursue the plan, especially after the meeting with the chairman and Gloria. Gloria tried to dissuade him.
Have you ask yourself why John has been absent for so long? He has been properly dealt with because he tried to double cross the company. Just so you know, the board members are clique. They will never hesitate to stamp on anyone who attempts to obstruct their common interest.
In spite of Glorias attempt to discourage him from warring with the company, Richard informed her he must go ahead with his plan else he would suffer from a troubled conscience. Gloria warned him the company has informants that act as eyes for them. They will relay information to the company in a twinkling of an eye. So proceeding with the plan will only endanger him and his family. The ever stubborn Richard vowed to see the matter to the end. He stormed out of the office.
A confused Gloria scurried to the chairman and reported to him Richards resolve. The chairman was unfazed by the piece of information. He looked as placid as a lake. A wry smile danced around his lips. I will feed that wretch to the crow, he thought to himself. Since he has decided to take the honey comb, he should be prepared to face the sting of the bees.
We must act fast, he said to Gloria. We have to clear any incriminating materials from the warehouse at the wharf.
Dr. Anayo happened to be a very shrewd man who conceals himself on sighting calamity afar. He does not want to suffer any penalty, so he always averts it. He is the one the board members relied on to make decisions, especially when under pressure like in the present situation that will shield them from calamity. After his discussion with the chairman, Dr. Anayo rallied the boys, boys that carry out their dirty jobs, to clear out goods that could incriminate the company. It was during this time they noticed that two cartons, 039 and 050, were missing. He quickly sent Jackie King to the office to detain the wretched boy called Richard and retrieve the cartons from him.
The chairman and Gloria were in the middle of a discussion when Jackie King barged in. He told them that they noticed two cartons were missing as they were clearing out the warehouse.
Those cartons contain
Shut up!!! the chairman sprang up from his seat and bang his fist on his mahogany desk. I know damn well what those cartons contain. Now he has lost his cool, he looked venomous like a cobra. That goon, Richard, must surely have a taste of his venom.
We have to stop him from reaching the authorities with those cartons, said Jackie King.
The only thing he cares so much about is his family, Gloria said. Kidnap his family and you will have his attention. He will do anything to protect this family.
GoodJackie, take his family hostage and bring them to the warehouse. Lets see how much his family means to him, intoned the chairman.
Richard is not known to back down from pursuing what he considered right. As soon as he stepped out of Glorias office, he drove straight of the office of NDLEA to report what he just witnessed. He believed he was carrying out his civic duty to help government keep the society free of illegal drugs. His efforts and noble service should be highly appreciated.
But not so; something is definitely wrong, he reasoned. He had been here for the past six hours since he reported the matter to NDLEA officials. They paid no attention to him after getting his statement. They were dilly-dallying for some reason not known to him. He vowed not to allow their lackluster attitude discourage or intimidate him.
While he waited on end, he wondered whether Glorias warning could be true. Could these men be stalling in other to get word across to the Clique? Could he really survive this battle with the elephant, him being a mere ant? No, I must be firm and go ahead with this irrespective of the outcome, he encouraged himself. One of the men that took his statement approached him. The badge on his uniform identified him as Yemi Ladipo. Tall and swarthy, he had an imposing stature and a baritone voice. He asked Richard to come forward with the evidence in his possession. Richard informed him he would get them right away from his automobile trunk. He excused himself to get the cartons. His mobile phone vibrated. He checked the caller I.D, it showed Gloria. When he answered the call, it was the voice of the chairman that hit his eardrum.
Hello Richard, his voice was calm but crowded with anger, I want you to listen carefully and do as you are instructed. I know you cherish your family. It will interest you to know I have them with me right her
My family? I dont believe you. The chairman put Felicia on the phone. She spoke amidst tears, pleading with her husband to come safe them from the fierce looking men wielding guns everywhere.
Do you believe me now, he cackled. You will listen to me this minute. I want you at the warehouse in the next thirty minutes. And Richard he paused to allow the next words sink in, bring the cartons with you. he disconnected the call.
Richards entire universe plummeted after the call. His family was the nucleus of his existence. He must safe them by all means necessary, he told himself. He drove as fast as he could the warehouse at wharf. With the cartons at hand, he walked stealthily toward the warehouse; everywhere is dark. Jackie King and his boys were standing at the entrance, guns in hand. Richards heartbeat quickens and his steps faltered; Jackie King waved him on. Gloria, Dr. Anayo and the Chairman were waiting for him inside. He saw his family tautly gagged and packed in one corner. As soon as he entered, he knew it would be impossible to come out alive especially with Jackie King and his boys standing behind him, wielding their guns like children showing off their new toys. The chairman simply told him to hand over the cartons.
How do I know you wont kill us after I hand them over?
That is right, you dont. Just hand over the cartons and we can worry about that later, said the chairman.
Please, let my family go. Take me, Im the one you want, Richard said with shaky voice.
You are not in a position to negotiate, young man. Youve had your chance and it has expired. Now hand them over, Dr. Anayo stretched out his hands.
Richard gave him the carton. He checked to see that everything was intact. He nodded at Jackie and his pack. Jackie King and his boys bundled up Richard, tied him and pushed him toward his family. As Dr. Anayo, the Chairman and Gloria were leaving the warehouse, Richard hurled imprecations at Gloria.
You should have listened to the voice of reason. Now, you have yourself to blame, she fired back.
Take care of the situation here. Leave no trails or traces, Dr. Anayo said to Jackie King. Turning to Gloria, he said, Once again, youve proven your loyalty to the clique. I will see to it you are rewarded accordingly, you can be rest assured.
The sound of gunshots was delightful to the chairman. With a cheerful smile on his face, he entered his car with Dr. Anayo and Gloria.
Drive, he ordered the driver.